A new cutting-edge training facility has opened in Canberra for the next-generation of Australian Federal Police (AFP) technology detection dogs used to fight child exploitation, terrorism and foreign interference.
The new Technology Detection Dog facility is an Australian-first for law enforcement, helping the AFP to bring serious and dangerous offenders to justice.
In 2021, technology detection dogs were deployed to 74 premises, retrieving 328 evidentiary items. While approximately 40% of the tasks undertaken related to child exploitation and protection, the dogs were also deployed to jobs related to Counter Terrorism, Crime Operations, and to support other State and Territory Police operations.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the AFP canine crime fighters specialised in sniffing out hidden technology devices such as USBs and SIM cards, which could hold hundreds of thousands of images and documents.
“We know that abhorrent child exploitation material, extremist material and foreign interference instructions are being purposely concealed by offenders to escape police detection,’’ Minister Andrews said.
“Our highly-skilled AFP investigators have found that offenders gain status and confidence on child abuse platforms by sharing and hoarding new and existing child abuse material.
“These offenders become skilled at hiding devices containing this material in their premises to evade police detection.
“Not only can technology detection dogs locate hidden devices, which can be crucial evidence needed to charge an offender, but the information on those devices could also help locate unknown victims.”
Senator for the ACT Zed Seselja welcomed the opening of the new facility in Canberra.
“This new facility here in Canberra will allow the AFP to train and deploy more tech detection dogs in the fight against serious crime,” Senator Seselja said.
“We live in an increasingly complex security environment. Strengthening our national security has never been more important, and the AFP’s tech detection dogs will have an important role to play in preventing major security threats.”
The Morrison Government provided $5.7 million to the AFP in 2021 to boost its technology detection dog program under the Government’s National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse. This investment built on a $1.3 million pilot funded through Proceeds of Crime.
The state-of-the-art training facility is purpose built to ensure the dogs are the best of the best. The facility’s configuration, audio and visual stimulus can be changed to ensure they’re prepared for any challenging environment.
Minister Andrews, who is the Patron of AFP National Canine Operations, said the technology detection dogs will also be used in terrorism investigations, including managing High Risk Terrorist Offenders, espionage and foreign interference matters.
“The ability to locate and seize digital evidence on hidden technical devices gives the AFP the edge to stay a step ahead of criminals,’’ Minister Andrews said.
“This was demonstrated in Queensland in 2020 when a technology detection dog located an ankle bracelet in bushland during a joint AFP Queensland Joint Counter Terrorism Team/QPS investigation.”
This facility builds on the Morrison Government’s strong track record for Australia’s police and law enforcement agencies – under this Government, the AFP’s funding has increased to $1.7 billion.