Westchester’s cutest detective is taking a byte out of crime — literally. Meet Harley, a 2-year-old Golden Lab with an unusual job: solving cybercrimes.
Dogs have served on police forces for nearly 150 years, but Harley’s job is unique to the 21st century. She’s one of only 10 police-trained K9s in the world certified to sniff out cyber technology. (In 2015, a black Lab named Bear was responsible for finding the thumb drive that led to Subway pitchman Jared Fogle’s arrest on child-pornography charges.) Harley works for both the Westchester County Police Department and the FBI’s Cyber Crime Task Force, and sports a shield-shaped detective badge.
Harley and her human partner, Detective Brett Hochron, gave a demonstration of Harley’s tech-sniffing skills at Pace University in November. “Nearly all crimes committed today have some kind of cyber element,” Hochron explained to an audience of Pace computer-science students. Electronic devices that could contain illegal or incriminating information are easily concealed. But with Harley’s keen sense of smell, she can sweep a crime scene for hidden devices more swiftly and thoroughly than humans ever could.
As a puppy, Harley attended Yorktown’s Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a school for guide dogs, but her boundless energy led her to switch careers. Hochron says that Guiding Eyes remains an active part of Harley’s life.
To stay sharp, Harley does a practice sniffing test six days a week. During the Pace demonstration, she uncovered a hard drive in a fire extinguisher, thumb drives hidden under furniture, and a tiny MicroSD card — smaller than a dime but capable of holding thousands of pictures — taped behind a door handle. Hochron says his canine comrade is “an incredible asset to the county,” adding that Sundays are her days of rest, during which she revels in treats and cuddles.