In an effort to protect children, actively monitoring registered sex offenders is what a certain group of dogs are specially trained for.
These aren’t just regular dogs. These K9s — named Chewie and Solo — are professionally trained to catch predators as part of their full-time job with the Riverside County Child Exploitation Team.
Chewie and Solo are electronic scent detection dogs that can sniff out a variety of devices and tech that may hold potential evidence police may need. They work as part of a task force created by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
“Pretty much anything that can store digital media, whether it’s a cell phone, a USB, a micro SD card, an external hard drive, iPads [and more,]” explained Joel Pabelico with the Riverside County Child Exploitation Team.
Following extensive investigation and surveillance, the task force will execute a search warrant before sending in the K9s.
“So that could be something as simple as possession of child pornography, to an adult wanting to meet and engage a minor in sex acts, as well as distributing, manufacturing,” explained Jason Polanco from the Riverside County Child Exploitation Team of the suspects they track down.
The K9s have a highly keen sense of smell and were able to instantly locate and sniff out KTLA’s Shelby Nelson’s phone during a simulation run.
Officials said the K9s’ role is instrumental in the task force’s successful operations. In 2023, investigators have arrested 91 people and served 441 search warrants.
On Halloween night, when many families and children are out trick-or-treating, authorities said they’ll remain hypervigilant with monitoring and tracking registered sex offenders to ensure they are compliant with registration requirements.
“There are safeguards in place, so to speak, where the registered sex offenders within our county, they’re not supposed to be handing out candy on Halloween,” said Pabelico.
Officials said while the goal isn’t to scare people, they want to make the public and community members aware of potential dangers.
They said the best thing parents can do is familiarize themselves with local sex offender registries, such as Megan’s Law, which are accessible to the public. Parents and guardians should also never let their children go trick-or-treating alone.
“Be involved, stay engaged, monitor what your kids are doing online,” Pabelico said. “Social media platforms are a big thing.”