NY Prisoner Escape Turns Up Low and High-Tech Tools in High-Stakes Manhunt

PHOTO: A heavily armed law enforcement officer patrols the edge of road during a search for two escaped killers in Boquet, N.Y., June 9, 2015. PlaySeth Wenig/AP Photo
WATCH Manhunt For Escaped Convicted Murderers Expands Across State Lines

Among the tools police are using to find the convicted killers who escaped from an update New York prison five days ago, some are surprisingly low-tech.

From bloodhounds and human spotters hidden in the woods hoping to identify some non-wildlife movement, some of the tactics that are on full display indicate a fundamentally basic manhunt.

Helicopters are flying over the area and hundreds of law enforcement officers – state and local police, not to mention federal officials who have come to assist -- are tackling the search on the ground.

"We have aircraft, we have canines, we have tons of ground personnel," New York State Trooper Jennifer Fleischman said at a press conference this afternoon. "We're exhausting every resource we have available."

Higher tech MRAPs, or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles that are designed to withstand explosives, have also been spotted driving through the normally sleepy town, though police have not publicly indicated that there are any threats of explosives. Police wearing what appear to be bullet-proof vests have been seen throughout the fields in towns near the Clinton Correctional Facility close together in a line formation, which law enforcement officials call a strip-line search.

PHOTO: Law enforcement officers walk the streets in Dannemora, N.Y., as they searched houses near the maximum-security prison in northern New York where two killers escaped using power tools, June 10, 2015.Seth Wenig/AP Photo
Law enforcement officers walk the streets in Dannemora, N.Y., as they searched houses near the maximum-security prison in northern New York where two killers escaped using power tools, June 10, 2015.

Former New York Police Department Sgt. Joe Giacalone told ABC News that such a search “is what we use in crime scenes where everybody's just walking shoulder to shoulder looking for clues. You’re looking for a piece of clothing that might of have been discarded. You would be treating this like a homicide investigation.”

Spotters have been pictured in camouflage gear and Giacalone says they're likely posting up in the woods overnight using night-vision goggles in an effort to spot the inmates’ potential movements after the sun goes down, which both Giacalone and Steve Gomez, an ABC News security consultant and former FBI executive , agree would be their preferred travel time.

"In this situation, the search teams that are combing through the country side will be supported by tactical operators from afar -- SWAT trained personnel who will likely be equipped with and utilize high-powered binoculars and rifle scopes with zoom in and out capabilities," Gomez said.

"These tactical personnel will be searching from a distance via binoculars and scopes to not alert anyone of their presence but at the same time, to have effective eyes on the ground to determine any movement and to then support the search teams that are moving in to get a closer look."

PHOTO: A law enforcement agent walks with a K-9, June 10, 2015 in Dannemora, N.Y.Rob Fountain/The Press-Republican/AP Photo
A law enforcement agent walks with a K-9, June 10, 2015 in Dannemora, N.Y.

Thermal imaging, which is closer to the high end of the technology spectrum, is also a key tool that will be used both on the ground and in air components, Gomez said, and that will make the biggest difference at night when the woods are less visible. Sources have also confirmed to ABC News that the FBI has lent air assets with night vision to the search efforts.

One of the reasons that might explain the emphasis on boots-on-the-ground efforts is that the convicts, David Sweat and Richard Matt, will be operating in the same way. They broke out of prison presumably without a cellphone or credit cards, so they cannot be tracked virtually.

Bloodhounds are being used to track their scents and have reportedly already gotten a few hits in different directions, leading to shifts in the police search. The problem with the dogs, Giacalone points out, is that the men’s scents will have faded over the past few days and there is always the possibility that they fled toward Lake Champlain, which is only about 15 miles away from the prison and provides a route across state lines.

PHOTO: Law enforcement officials knock on the door of a home while searching a street near the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York June 10, 2015.Chris Wattie/Reuters
Law enforcement officials knock on the door of a home while searching a street near the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York June 10, 2015.

“Talk about low-tech, but the dogs are only as good as the scent that they track,” Giacalone said.

Vermont Gov. Shumlin announced Wednesday that marine patrols have been activated on the lake.

Another tool that the police have used is a repeated plea to the public. In a news conference on Wednesday announcing that they are following up on a tip that points toward the inmates heading to Vermont, officials urged vigilance from residents.

Beyond just asking for them to call in tips if they see anything out of the ordinary, residents in the towns near Dannemora, where the prison is located, have been asked to keep any and all outdoor or patio lights on throughout the night in an effort to help any police officers see better in their evening searches.