ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Jails across the country are in a constant battle to keep contraband out of the hands of inmates.

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department has some four-legged friends helping out. The department has two dogs, both specifically trained to sniff out any electronics.

“They have the ability to differentiate one smell to another, and even so much as inmate tablets smell differently than a cell phone would,” said Steve McCorkle, corrections sergeant for the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department.

The two K9s work in the jail to sniff out any electronics coming in or out.

“Bringing the K9 unit in the jail in is beneficial, like I said, both to the inside and the outside. They are very intelligent animals, we can train them to find specific items,” McCorkle said. “Detection dogs can be trained for any number of different odors to locate electronics in the jail, narcotics, explosives, firearms.”

McCorkle said that inmates are not allowed phones so they cannot call to harass victims or witnesses. Nick Cunningham is a former sergeant at the sheriff’s department. He now owns Star K9 Trailing & Detection, and he explained that the K9s go off their sense of smell, not their sight.

“All they have to do is smell it,” Cunningham said. “So, if it’s hidden in a very difficult place to locate, the dog will be able to find it regardless of what methods were used to hide it.”

Cunningham also believes that K9s in jails speed up the intake process because the dogs can detect things that humans may miss.

“The size of the jail and the number of cells, they have the number of inmates that are in there, it is a monumental task to try and hand search all that to find any contraband,” Cunningham said. “That dog is going to be able to clear that cell in about 15-20 seconds. There is no way you can hand search that fast.”

Both men hope that the K9 Unit will continue to grow to help keep the community safe.

“There was never a large influx of contraband coming into the facility,” McCorkle said. “We did it a little bit more proactively. We just want to make sure, before it becomes a problem, we are already addressing it.”

The sheriff’s department said that they are always thinking ahead to keep the community safe, and this was just one part of that.