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​K9 partnership gets smart on prison mobile phone detection

Issued: 15 April 2013
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The haul of mobile phone equipment seized from prisons has increased more than 500 per cent since a successful canine partnership with NSW corrections officers was introduced.

Targeted raids in Corrective Services NSW’ (CSNSW) prisons using a combination of intelligence and K9 phone detection teams netted 239 contraband mobile phones and accessories in 2012.

CSNSW Commissioner Peter Severin said the results are a 512 per cent increase from the 39 mobile phones and accessories seized in 2009.

"Mobile phone detector dogs were deployed by CSNSW in November 2009, in an Australian first," Mr Severin said today.

"In the three years after their introduction a total of 478 mobile phones and accessories were detected by our State Emergency Unit, which works to eliminate contraband from prisons.

"Our strategy combines thorough intelligence-gathering, targeted raids of cells and common areas, and the use of K9 mobile phone detection teams.

"The dogs are specially-trained to detect the lithium in mobile phone batteries and we’ve now extended their capability to sniff out chargers and SIM cards as well."

Mr Severin said while the dogs were highly attuned to the scent of contraband mobile phone equipment they worked best in combination with a range of security and detection methods.

"These seizures reflect the real benefits to be achieved with the partnership of human intelligence and canine legwork helping to eliminate contraband in our correctional centres.

"Our officers must be constantly vigilant – we’re dealing with criminals who are forever trying to find new ways to smuggle contraband into our centres. We’re also coming up with new ways to catch people breaking the law and those involved will face charges and – if they’re inmates – a significant loss of privileges as well."

Mr Severin said a new pilot of Australian-first mobile phone jamming technology would begin in the coming months at Lithgow Correctional Centre and when operational, would be a new and powerful weapon in the fight to end contraband mobile phones.

The K9 partnership and the phone jamming trial were announced as part of a crackdown on mobile phones in NSW prisons following successful prosecution of a high-profile inmate for offences involving use of a contraband mobile phone in 2008.

Penalties

Legislated NSW penalties for inmate possession and use of mobile phones, parts and accessories may be enforced by police or CSNSW.

CSNSW institutional charge:

A General Manager of a NSW Correctional Centre may choose to remove specified inmate privileges for up to 6 months, including:

  • participation in contact visits with family and friends
  • use of the prison telephone system except for calls to lawyers and certain investigative and complaint-handling agencies
  • access to TV, radio, videos, CDs and DVDs
  • ability to purchase extra food, goods and toiletries from the buy-up program
  • ability to keep previously approved personal property in cells, and
  • use of library facilities except for education purposes.

Alternatively, a General Manager may chose to impose a range of penalties includingconfinement to a cell for up to 7 days and deprivation of any or all specified privileges for up to 56 days.

Criminal charge by police:

The courts may impose a maximum 2 years’ imprisonment or a $5,500 fine, or both.