• United States



by Senior Editor

Dog Calls: Company Trains K-9s to Sniff Out Contraband Cell Phones

Sep 11, 20082 mins
FraudMobile SecurityPhysical Security

A California company has developed a niche training dogs to detect illicit cell phones in correctional facilities.(So what does a cell phone smell like, you ask?)

Cell phones in US prisons have become the newest threat to security; both inside the facilties and out. The problem is so pervasive that a California-based company has carved out a new niche training dogs to smell them on inmates and in prison cells.

“It’s definitely widespread,” said Sharon Read of All States K-9 Detection, which claims to be the only company in the US right now that trains dogs for cell phone sniffing. “All departments of corrections across the US are having problems with this. Cells are now considered contraband that is hotter than drugs in prisons.”

Read said she and her business partner and husband, Harlen “Lamb” Lambert, got the idea to train dogs for cell phone detection during a vacation in Spain. An official at a U.K.-based prison was being interviewed on a news network about the problem in Europe.

In US prisons, inmates receive cell phones from friends and family smuggling them in during visits, or tossing them over prison walls. They may also be snuck in by bribed prison workers. The devices are often used coordinate serious crimes in the outside world, such as trafficking drugs, planning escapes and even threatening court witnesses, according to the company.

“Inmates talking on their cells, from their cells, has become a serious problem. We’re talking about crime, violence, drugs and gang activity, all being initiated from a cell phone,” said Lambert.

So what does a cell phone smell like?

“There are several components to a cell phone,” said Read. “We don’t know what the dogs are smelling. But we can take out pieces like plastic, a battery, a SIMS card, to learn their individual smells. So, it’s like baking bread when you are training the dogs. We smell butter, yeast, certain components. But the dog can smell all of it.”

All States K-9 Detection has trained dogs to locate cell phones in hidden in places like under mattresses, in freezers, vending machines and carved-out books.

“Nine times out of ten if you find cell phone, you also find drugs, maybe a laptop,” said Read. “It all kind of goes together.”

Statistics on the number of cell phones in US prisons are not available. However, Maryland and Florida have already passed legislation increasing the penalties for people who provide cell phones to inmates, said Lambert.