‘Hannah’ sniffs out cyber-crime

Investigator John Hyla and Hanna

CARMEL – A new tool has been added to the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office fight against crime.

‘Hannah,’ a three-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, purchased by the county through a donation from Monika Stillwell of Patterson and assigned to Investigator John Hyla, a graduate of Mahopac High School and 12-year-veteran of the sheriff’s department, received training several months ago by Connecticut State Police to sniff out child pornography and other cyber-crimes.

The 10-week training course taught the dog to learn to identify a compound called TPPO or triphenylphosphine oxide–a chemical that shrouds memory chips found in all electronic storage devices.

Hyla explained while the majority of his cases deal with child pornography, “Hannah is also able to locate GPS devices on vehicles or anything else electronic containing TPPO.”

The canine team is certified through the New England State Police Administrators Conference. “The association’s hotline is how our office receives cyber tips as we are part of the New York State Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force,” said Hyla.

Since joining the task force several months ago ‘Hannah’ and Hyla have made six arrests for possession of child pornography as well as distribution of child porn while participating in some two dozen searches for cyber-crime.

‘Hannah’ came to the sheriff’s department after dropping out of the Guiding Eyes for the Blind training program.

She loves to roam the halls of the sheriffs’ office and is always greeted with hugs and pats on the back by law enforcement personnel and clerical staff as well. Hyla described his four-legged companion as a “‘mush.’ Everybody loves her to pieces and that includes my wife and three children since ‘Hannah’ resides with our family. I don’t know if you’d call her the ‘mascot of the sheriff’s department but she is very popular.”

Undersheriff Mike Corrigan agreed. “Hannah is an amazing dog. She is kind and gentle but when the chips are down and she begins to track, positive results always occur.”

It was time to get to business. Inv. Hyla always carries a pocketful of kibble since ‘Hannah’ has learned that food will be available only if she tracks.

“We want her to get us to the spot where devices are hidden,” said the investigator.

Devices containing TPPO including a smartphone, RAM card, digital camera, credit card, and thumb drive, been previously hidden by Hyla, were sniffed out in a matter of minutes by the amazing dog.

“She’s so smart and while she predominantly uses her nose, ‘Hannah’ also uses her eyes to help her. Many times when I search with her at the office, she remembers the spots where I previously hid an item,” he said with a grin. A treat awaited ‘Hannah’ each time she located the hidden electronic device. Of the six gadgets hidden the day of our visit, ‘Hannah’ located each one in a matter of minutes.

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