VACAVILLE (KPIX 5) — Calfornia prisons are getting help from a four-legged deputy in stopping the constant smuggling of cellphones to convicts.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is using Drako, a Belgian Malinois, to sniff out what the department calls the state prisons’ biggest contraband problem.

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Finding cellphones is what Drako seems bred to do. In the past four years, he has found about a thousand of them during cell searches, among other contraband. “He looks for cell phones, tobacco, marijuana,” said CDCR Officer Brian Pyle. “When we go into a cell, Drako knows what time it is.”

Drako’s sniffing skills are so discerning, we had to put him to the test. We took an old cellphone and hid it in one of three jars of peanut butter. He quickly passed over two full jars and identified the one with the cellphone.

Officer Pyle said Drake once found 30 cellphones hidden by prisoners inside a microwave oven.

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It is not known exactly what’s in a cellphone that sets Drako off. But what’s even more unique about Drako’s sensing skill is that at one time, he was a reject from regular K-9 training school, dropping out of the program.

Officer Pyle got Drako for free and discovered he would pick up the cellphone scent. Now they’re an indispensable team with the state corrections department.

Cellphone-carrying inmates should be concerned if they see Officer Pyle and Drako coming. An inmate caught with a cell phone  could lose 90 days credit for good time.

Visitors caught smuggling cell phones can be fined up to $5,000 per phone and face up to 6 months in jail.

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