When Officer Alyssa Burrows started her first job out of her graduate program, she had no idea her closest coworker would be a dog. “As I began to develop relationships with different co-workers, another officer in the sex offender unit mentioned he had once tried to earn an assignment with an electronics detecting dog,” remembers Officer Burrows. “He then said he thought that might be a good fit for me.”
After finding a dog named Champ through an online search and applying for a grant, her new partnership was approved—with one stipulation from her department head: Champ had to look “look tough.” To those who have met Champ, it’s become something of a joke. “I’m not sure it’s even possible for Champ to look tough,” laughs Officer Burrows. “I mean, have you seen his eyes?”
But even if Champ is a sweetheart, he’s not afraid of anything on the job; in fact, he loves his job. To Champ, evidence retrieval is a fun game. In one of his early cases, Champ was able to quickly locate a device hidden in a suspect’s fireplace mantle. He and K9 partners like him are crucial in the retrieval of important evidence held on phones, USB drives, laptops, and memory storage devices. This evidence plays an important role in combatting human trafficking and child sex slavery.
Taking Action to Turn the Tide
According to Officer Burrows, the sex trafficking problem in the Missouri area is ongoing and on the rise. But, thanks to Champ, officers are cracking down on the exploitation of children and women. “We were warned that we would see an increase in sex offenders whose criminal offense was tied to human trafficking,” says Officer Burrows. “I currently supervise 27 sex offenders, two of which have a background in human trafficking and soliciting prostitutes. The 11 sex offender officers in my district all carry a similar caseload. In the state of Missouri alone, 178 human trafficking cases were reported in 2018 with 137 of those cases being sex trafficking.”
Officer Burrows said that out of all those sex trafficking cases, the majority were flagged through child pornography. And since 2017, Missouri has actually seen an increase in reported cases of human trafficking. “Overall, we have upward of 300 sex offenders in the Eastern District of Missouri, many of them who are possession or distribution of child pornography. Thanks to dogs like Champ, we are now fighting this problem more efficiently and more quickly.”