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Volusia County Sheriff's Office
Home | news | VSO Acquires 1st-Ever Electronic Detection Dog in Fight to Protect Children
Aside arrow VSO Acquires 1st Ever Electronic Detection Dog in Fight to Protect Children
July 14, 2020 12:11 pm

Laura Williams, Office of
Public Affairs & Media Relations

Watch Det. K9 Zen at work on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/VolusiaSheriff/posts/3259052324133947

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VSO ACQUIRES 1ST ELECTRONIC DETECTION DOG IN FIGHT TO PROTECT CHILDREN
K9 Zen Is Trained to Locate Devices Used by Child Predators 

Volusia Sheriff’s Detective Chastity Burke has dreamed for years of acquiring an electronic detection K9 detective to help investigate sex offenders who exploit children.

Her dream just came true, through her new partner: Detective K9 Zen, a black Labrador retriever puppy who is trained to sniff out evidence in child exploitation cases via devices such as hard drives, thumb drives, SD cards and cellphones. Zen is Volusia County’s first-ever electronic detection dog.

Detective K9 Zen has been trained to detect a chemical found inside anything that can store electronic media and data. It’s in those electronic devices that child predators often store inappropriate images or videos of children. Zen and Detective Burke work with the Volusia Sheriff’s Office Child Exploitation Unit and the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.

Zen is her first K9 partner, which the Volusia Sheriff’s Office acquired in April. Zen was purchased through a grant by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

To prepare for their partnership, Burke and Zen have completed 160 hours of a Detection K9 Handler Course. Zen is extremely smart and will be a tremendous asset to the Sheriff’s Office and assisting other agencies, Burke said.

Detective Burke is passionate about her work to protect children.

Since January 2012, she has served on the North Florida ICAC Task Force.  She joined the Volusia Sheriff's Office (VSO) Sex Crimes Unit in August 2012.  A year later, Burke was assigned to the VSO’s ICAC Unit.  Her responsibilities as an ICAC detective include investigating sex offenders who possess, distribute and/or manufacture child pornography. Burke also investigates people who solicit children on the Internet.

Burke, who became a senior deputy in 2016, has attended numerous training courses and conferences related to child exploitation investigations. In fact, she learned about how electronic K9 detection was used to investigate former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle, who was convicted of receiving and distributing child pornography in 2015.

That’s when Burke’s dream to bring an electronic detection K9 to Volusia County was born.

“This is going to be perfect for our agency. I know it is,” Burke said. “I’ve wanted this for so long and I’m going to do everything I can to make it best for our agency because I know we can, together. Our primary focus is to protect and save children.”

Burke has received multiple awards for her work investigating sex crimes against children.

They include: the Kindervision law enforcement award in 2013; VSO Investigator of the Quarter, 2014; the VSO Unit Commendation Bar, 2015; Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Valley of Orlando law enforcement award, 2016; VSO’s Meritorius Service Award, 2019 and 2019 Distinguished Victim Services Award from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody; and the 2020 Missing Children's Child Protection Award from the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood is also pleased with the addition of Zen.

“The children of our community have long had a hero in Detective Burke, and now they have one in K-9 Zen, too,” the sheriff said. “Together, I know they’ll do everything they can to put predators behind bars, where they can’t victimize and traumatize any more innocent lives. This is some of the most important work we do in law enforcement, and in Volusia County we’re fortunate to have an outstanding Child Exploitation Unit working hard every day to make a difference.”

Once Detective K9 Zen is fully trained and proficient as an electronic detection dog, he will become trained as an emotional support K9.  Zen will be utilized throughout Volusia County to comfort children during Child Protection Team interviews or in any situation where the child could use a friend to assist in a criminal investigation. 

“Not only is this a great tool to arrest child predators and protect the children of Volusia County but Detective K9 Zen also plays a big part in the working environment within the Child Exploitation Unit,” said VSO Lt. Kurt Schoeps, who supervises Burke and Zen.  “Child Exploitation Unit detectives endure very traumatic material on a daily basis. Providing resources and outlets for these detectives is paramount.  Detective K9 Zen instantly provides a stress relief and a level of comfort within the office.  But when it is time to work, Zen is starting to prove himself as one of the best detection dogs in the state.”

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