North Dakota BCI dogs trained to help with various cases

BISMARCK (AP) — Two of the newest agents of North Dakota’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation have had their paws on dozens of cases.

Since May 2020, K9s Jib and Jab have been deployed 88 times, resulting in 29 arrests and leading to the rescues of three sexually abused children, according to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

“They have proven to be more useful than we even had thought,” the state’s longest-serving attorney general said.

The dogs are trained on the odor of the chemical in the solder of electronic devices’ memory, leading investigators to items containing child pornography.

They were provided to the state free of charge by Operation Underground Railroad, which seeks to end child sex trafficking. Such dogs cost $15,000 each, according to the organization.

Operation Underground Railroad in 2019 had provided a K9 to the bureau, but Hex, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador, died last year from a heart condition after two months on the job, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

Jib, a 3-year-old black Lab based in Fargo, replaced Hex. Jab, a 3-year-old yellow Lab based in Minot, came shortly afterward. Both dogs live with bureau agents and their families. The agents had to undergo training with the dogs, the second and third K9s in the bureau.

They have assisted about 30 federal, state, county and city law enforcement agencies around the state, including the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Stenehjem said.

The dogs are skilled at finding micro-size electronic devices such as memory cards hidden in items as small as hollowed-out coins, after investigators initially search a residence or location, he said.

“They will very often find something that was overlooked by the human investigators,” Stenehjem said.

Mandan police have used the K9s, including Hex. Deputy Chief Lori Flaten said detectives found them helpful.

“They have found things like flash drives, phones and laptops. We have used them mostly for cases like child porn,” Flaten said.

Burleigh County Sheriff Kelly Leben said his office hasn’t utilized the dogs, but “I imagine we will.”

“I will say it is a great resource to know it is out there, and in the event we execute a search warrant to that extent, it would be great to call on that resource,” he said.

The bureau is looking at acquiring an accelerant-detecting dog through the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, for use in arson cases.