Cook County Sheriff’s Department K9 Unit helps detect missing persons, criminals, drugs and bombs

COOK COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) – They are special members of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department who use their keen sense of smell and agility to help put criminals behind bars.

It’s all about the nose of this breed of dog, as bloodhounds play a vital role in the 20-dog K-9 unit of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.

“These dogs are so well trained, but that’s only because their handlers are so good, and the rehearsal and work they do with them,” Cook Co Sheriff Tom Dart said.

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Whether it’s for narcotics, bomb threats, the search for evidence of crime or missing persons, Sheriff Dart said the K-9 unit is called multiple times a day. Each dog has its own assistant.

“We get called out at all hours of the night, weather conditions, blizzards — we’re out there looking,” said Cook County K9 Unit Deputy Anna Wilk.

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Deputy Wilk works with and trains the Bloodhounds. They are specifically used to find missing persons, whether found dead or alive.

Each dog is named after a victim the dog helped find in a Cook County case.

“We train dogs from scents that have been on for an hour to several weeks,” Deputy Wilk said.

Consistent training in all kinds of weather and terrain is key to the success of Bloodhounds.

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ABC7’s Sarah Schulte was the target of 19-month-old Samantha. Using a piece of gauze for a scented item, she sniffs it and then goes hunting.

It wasn’t long before Samantha found Schulte in a forest preserve.

“I can be here with you all day, telling you the great stories our dogs have found and the countless people they have found,” Deputy Wilk said.

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Body camera video shows how dogs found a missing autistic boy. And while not all endings are happy, bloodhounds rarely miss.

“Even though this is a life we ​​can save, this dog served its purpose,” Deputy Wilk said.

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