Andrew McAleer: The K-9 Connection

Andrew McAleer: The Professor and the Bank Robber


Photo by Stephen D. Rogers

ANDREW MCALEER is the author of The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists and the co-author of the number 1 best-selling, Mystery Writing in a Nutshell. Mr. McAleer is also the author of three novels including the critically-acclaimed, Double Endorsement and Bait and Switch. A prosecutor with the Massachusetts Department of Correction, Mr. McAleer is an adjunct professor at Boston College and a recipient of the Sherlock Holmes Revere Bowl Award. He serves as a specialist in the Army National Guard. Visit Mr. McAleer at


When it comes to the fight against crime most people think that once a defendant is convicted and incarcerated that fight is over. This is not the case. Prison officials are constantly strategizing ways to prevent convicted criminals from plying their trade from behind bars. Fortunately, prison officials are not alone in their fight – cell phone dogs have joined team!


Believe it or not, one of the latest weapons used by inmates is the cell phone. The 2008 December issue of Corrections Forum reports that “Wireless phones are quickly becoming one of the most powerful forms of contraband within correctional facilities. They are used for criminal activities from fraudulent purchasing to planning murders.” Forum adds that in January 2008 a woman set testify against a career criminal was gunned down in the streets of Philadelphia and that the hit was ordered by a contraband cell phone.

In October of 2008, with the use of a smuggled cell phone, an inmate on death row harassed a Texas state senator by calling him repeatedly and threatening his daughters. In another example, the key witness in a Baltimore murder trial was shot and killed in front of his home in South Carolina from a hit ordered by a contraband cell phone. Former police officer and crime scene investigator Harlen Lambert, now the principal trainer for All States K-9 Detection-along with his detector dogs-is helping to put an end to this dangerous contraband.


In September 2007 Lambert began training dogs to detect cell phones. What the dogs actually do is sniff out the scent of the cell phone and not the cell phone itself. The results have been amazing. In one prison Lambert hid 26 cell phones around the facility and within 30 minutes the dogs found all 26 phones. They were hidden in various places like peanut butter jars, Yellow Pages books, or wrapped in plastic and submerged in the back of a toilet tank. The dogs can even find cell phone components. As a result, inmates who disassemble phones and try to hide its parts won’t outfox the dogs. Lambert says that if a dog already has some detection training, then he can develop a functioning detector dog in 21 consecutive days. (Forum).

The types of dogs trained by All States vary. Labs, German Shepherds, and Malinos. Major Peter Anderson, K-9 trainer for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services says that he generally works with Labs, Golden Retrievers, and Springer Spaniels. Regardless of the breed, cell phone dogs must be able to function in the high stress prison environment. With proper care and training these amazing animals can and do. Proving once again that man’s best friend is always ready to answer the call.

*Andy will be fighting crime during the day today, but he’ll be around in the evening hours to answer your questions.

Books by Andrew McAleer






9 replies
  1. JoMarie
    JoMarie says:

    Dear Andrew,

    I loved your dog cell hunter story. What an amazing thing. I know dogs have the most powerful scent detection, but I never thought about the smell of cell phones.


    Joann B.

  2. Andrew McAleer
    Andrew McAleer says:

    A lot might depend on the type of facililty as to the amount of human contact and observation there might be. There are maximum, medium, and minimum security facilities. And perhaps, the amount of clothes one is wearing–or not wearing.

  3. SZ
    SZ says:

    Thank you Andrew for your response.

    Ok, it they sneak in a phone in a body part, um, a, yuck. How do they get it out and hand it over ? I thought they were visiting in front of guards with their cloths on.

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Another source of cellphones are prison employees. The phone recently smuggled into a Texas prison’s death row was smuggled in by a corrections officer. He/she accepted a bribe to carry the phone inside. Officials probably wouldn’t have learned about the phone had the inmate not called and threatened a state senator. Duh…

    Before the phone call to the senator, inmates on the Texas death row had made over 2,800 phone calls.

    I feel pretty safe in saying that dogs will be used to search for illegal phones in that institution. I’ll also bet more cell searches are conducted on a regular basis, too.

  5. Andrew McAleer
    Andrew McAleer says:

    HI SZ,

    Great question. Thank you. According to Harlen Lambert many of the phones are smuggled in through the body cavities of visitors. Hence, even though it’s against facility policies to bring in a cell phone, privacy issues arise. These dogs detect the odor of phones, so someone who has just carried a phone, but does not have one on them, may alert the dog. As a result, liability issues arise because you may be searching someone who had recently carried a legal item.

    The rules of a contest vary. In some cases if you win, then they might publish your story. I would let them publish it before I marketed a novel. From a creative point, I think it’s a terrific idea to turn a well-received work into a novel or series character. Chandler did this very successfully. THE BIG SLEEP was really a collection of his short stories yoked together. Critics did accuse him of canalbalizing his own work, but who cares–it’s a great American novel. Go where the creative juices send you. Just make sure before signing the dotted line that you know what happens to the rights of your work.

    When you sell a short story know what rights you are selling. Some publishers for example may just ask for North American rights or just first rights. Here all you are giving them is the right to publish your story first, then once they do, the rights revert to you.

  6. SZ
    SZ says:

    Great blog and congratulations on all your accomplishments.

    What I do not understand is how the phones are getting in there in the first place ?

    Also, if I may pick your writer brain, is it common to write a short story, and if well received, turn it into a novel ? I was told if I do this in a contest, to make sure I had the rights. Any thoughts ?

    Thank you

  7. Elena
    Elena says:

    Great Blog Andy – thank you! I love learning about new canine accomplishments.

    This from a woman who is incapable of writing a story without at least one canine.

Comments are closed.