ANKENY, Iowa — January is National Human Trafficking Prevention month, and the Ankeny Police Department has a new addition to their human trafficking prevention unit.
Her name is Sandy. The golden retriever-Labrador mix had her first day on the job on Nov. 15, 2022.
Sandy was donated to the department by Operation Underground Railroad, an organization dedicated to fighting child sex trafficking and exploitation.
Ankeny is the only local police agency that has a human trafficking K-9 on their team. The other three dogs in Iowa are owned by the state.
Local 5 spoke with Detective Kris Lindell of the Ankeny Police Department about how they've trained Sandy to detect potential human trafficking operations.
"Their job is to sniff out a chemical that's in electronic devices, storage devices," Lindell said. "A lot of the cases that we work have to do with child predators. . . most of these people will have cellphones, flash drives, SIM cards that they'll store this material on."
Since these devices are often very small, dogs like Sandy can make police department's jobs easier.
"They can sniff these devices out quicker than we could find them ourselves," Lindell said.
Investigations usually begin with investigators sweeping the premises to ensure there are no safety hazards for Sandy, such as insecticides or other animals.
From there, Sandy is food-motivated.
"When the food pouch goes on, that's the first cue that they know it's getting ready, time to work," Lindell said.
After getting another cue from her handlers, Sandy will go room-by-room to search. When she finds something, she receives food in return.
When she's not working, Sandy returns home to the Lindell household.
"She's basically a family dog when we get home," Lindell said. "I've got two other dogs at home that she gets along with great, and they play."
So far, Sandy has completed six search warrants with the Ankeny police, even completing one Wednesday morning.