The New Jersey State Police has a secret weapon that’s being used to help catch perverts distributing child pornography, and others with illicit digital materials.

The secret weapon has four legs and a tail.

Mega, a 2-year-old German shepherd, is a specially trained electronic storage detection dog and a certified patrol canine, which means he can clear scenes as well as apprehend suspects.

“He is a multi-talented dog,” New Jersey State Attorney General Chris Porrino said.

Mega, who was trained at the State Police canine training academy, is able to sniff out a chemical substance used in electronic storage devices — so when there’s a raid of a child porn suspect’s home, the dog is used to find devices that may have been tucked away or hidden. That might be, for instance, an SD card hidden away in a hamper or a thumb drive behind between the couch cushions.

“Once the scene has been secured we’ll go through that residence make sure it’s safe for deployment of the canine, and then we’ll go in and do our search,” New Jersey State Police Staff Sgt. Timothy Neville said.

Mega was recently credited with helping detect materials that led to the arrests of 79 people — including a police officer and a teacher — on child luring and child pornography charges.

Mega is among the only dogs in the world trained to detect triphenylphosphine oxide.  TPPO covers electronic circuit boards in all different types of storage devices to keep them from overheating.

Neville said to Mega, the search is an exciting challenge.

“That’s how the training is started. It’s all a game. He’s looking for a towel that’s scented, particularly with the odor we’re imprinting for electronic storage detection," Neville said.

How good is Mega at finding these devices, even if they’re well-hidden?

“He’s outstanding," Neville said. "He’s excellent, I tried to trick him quite a bit during scent school. Thee dog finds it all the time. You can’t trick their nose."

He added when Mega goes to work, “you’re looking for devices that could be anywhere."

"Sometimes it could be inside a chair hollowed out, inside of a stool, underneath ovens, stoves, couches,” he said.

Mega will find devices that are under clothes or in corners that have just been missed by detectives searching homes.

Mega lives at the home of his handler, Trooper Slawiek Stepien.

“We have to have the dogs with us at all times. We never know when our next job is going to come, so the dog is out there and ready to go,” Neville said.

Mega, who is also used to locate missing people, not get a steak dinner if he finds hidden material at a crime scene.

“He gets a regular diet like every other canine. His toy is his biggest reward,” Neville said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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