Get­ting the whiff of drugs

Dogs get set to give metro po­lice the edge

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ZARA NI­CHOL­SON

CAPE TOWN metro po­lice are about to let the dogs out.

They fi­nally have a dog unit and both han­dlers and dogs are in their fi­nal days of train­ing.

The 17 dogs will make spe­cial po­lice op­er­a­tions more ef­fec­tive. Some will also be part of the pa­trol teams at the Fifa 2010 World Cup fi­nal draw on De­cem­ber 4 in the city.

Eleven dogs will make up the ca­nine nar­cotics unit, four dogs will be­come pa­trol dogs and will join the Tac­ti­cal Re­sponse Unit at events and an­other two dogs are be­ing trained to help the ex­plo­sives and firearms units. The past six weeks has seen an in­crease in po­lice pa­trols and searches in gang-and drug-in­fested ar­eas.

Spe­cial op­er­a­tions Choke and Ra­zor were ini­ti­ated af­ter the at­tacks and killing of street com­mit­tee mem­bers Mervyn Ja­cobs and wheel­chair-bound Vin­cent Naidoo in Mitchells Plain. The op­er­a­tions have pro­duced re­sults in the sub­stan­tial amount of drugs and am­mu­ni­tion seized, as well as a num­ber of tip-offs from res­i­dents in var­i­ous ar­eas.

The metro po­lice have been part of this ef­fort and be­lieve their new dog unit will make op­er­a­tions “very ef­fec­tive”.

Metro po­lice chief Rob Young said the dogs would be an ef­fi­cient tool in help­ing to find drugs and am­mu­ni­tion which were of­ten skil­fully hid­den.

“It’s un­be­liev­able where we find th­ese things, such as in drains and un­der paving, and I don’t even want to think about the amount of nar­cotics we must have missed. Crim­i­nals are in­ge­nious with the way they hide drugs. Ev­ery time you think you know what they are go­ing to do they change the hid­ing places. The dogs, how­ever, are trained to iden­tify th­ese smells, so we might not find things but the dogs will.

“The other ben­e­fit of the dogs is that they give us rea­son­able grounds to sus­pect drugs be­cause we can’t tear each ve­hi­cle apart in a search, but if a dog alerts us to some­thing then there are rea­son­able grounds to search and the dog will show us ex­actly where to look. One dog can prob­a­bly search an area where we would need 20 of­fi­cers be­fore,” Young said.

The dogs have been trained since Au­gust at Dogs ‘n All near Malmes­bury which sup­plied the dogs. They are due to com­plete train­ing in two weeks. This week at the train­ing base labradors, bor­der col­lies and Aus­tralian sheep dogs were be­ing put through their paces.

Dur­ing train­ing the dogs, with names like Sandy, Tay­lor, By­ron and Pip, have been paired with an of­fi­cer and the teams have al­ready ev­i­dently es­tab­lished re­la­tion­ships.

The heat in Malmes­bury seemed to have lit­tle ef­fect on the en­ergy of the dogs as they quickly sprang into action when asked to show off their new skills to the Week­end Ar­gus team.

Some of the dogs who were not cho­sen to do ex­er­cises on the day protested by be­com­ing ex­cited in their cages while those who per­for med tasks were obe­di­ent and ef­fi­cient.

Be­fore the dogs en­ter the train­ing course they have to dis­play a cer­tain “drive and po­ten­tial”, Young said.

“We eval­u­ate them, and any dogs can fall out of the course at any stage.

“They also need to have a cer­tain tem­per­a­ment, they can’t be vi­cious be­cause they need to work in crowds.

“They can’t back down from cer­tain tasks like stairs and ve­hi­cles, if the dogs can’t do those things, they can’t do the course.

“They have con­tin­u­ous train­ing and are re-eval­u­ated. Work cer­tifi­cates are is­sued ev­ery six months,” Young said.

The dogs will play an in­stru­men­tal role in raids over the next few weeks while they will be de­ployed on the day of the World Cup fi­nal draw.

With op­er­a­tions Choke and Ra­zor now com­ing to an end in Mitchells Plain po­lice will move to con­cen­trate on Kew­town and other ar­eas.

In the past few weeks in Tafel­sig, metro po­lice have is­sued 1 289 fines, ar­rested 66 peo­ple and raided 49 prop­er­ties, some more than twice a week.

Op­er­a­tion Choke, which is a com­plete lock­down of an area with con­tin­u­ous raids and ve­hi­cles check points, started in Kew­town last Fri­day.

On the first day six sus­pects were ar­rested. In one in­ci­dent two sus­pects were ar­rested and 44 pack­ets of tik were found on them.

On Sun­day po­lice ar­rested 12 sus­pects, nine for dru­gre­lated of­fences, and con­fis­cated 298 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion in Bok­makierie.

In Bel­gravia on Mon­day, po­lice ar­rested three sus­pects and found 210 man­drax tablets and more than R9 000 in cash. Th­ese ar­rests were a re­sult of a tip-off from res­i­dents.

PIC­TURES: SAM CLARK

TAR­GET: The con­tain­ers with the six drugs the sniffer dogs are trained to iden­tify. The dogs are taught to do open air, ve­hi­cle, con­tainer and build­ings searches.

HIGHLY EF­FI­CIENT: One dog trained to iden­tify dif­fer­ent kinds of drugs can prob­a­bly search an area where po­lice would have needed 20 of­fi­cers without a dog.

TRAIN­ING DAY: As han­dler Con­sta­ble Melissa Joseph looks on, bor­der col­lie Raka is put through her ‘con­tainer’ train­ing, where she has to iden­tify nar­cotics.

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