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Getting the whiff of drugs

news-whiffdrugsCAPE TOWN metro police are about to let the dogs out.

Dogs get set to give metro police the edge.

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 been 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 Mitchell’s Plain. The operations have produced results in the substantial amount of drugs and ammunition seized, as well as a number of top-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 in 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 digs 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 t look. One dog can probably search an area where we would need 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 places.

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 are not chosen to do exercises on the day protested by becoming excited in their cages while those who performed tasks obedient and efficient.

Before the digs enter 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 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 issues 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 packers of tik were found on them.

On Sunday police arrested 12 suspects, nine for drug-related 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 cahs.

These arrests were a results of a tip-off from residents.

Pictures: SAM CLARK
Main photo: HIGHLY EFFICENT: One dog trained to identify different kinds of drugs can probably search an erea where police would have needed 20 officers without a dog.

Weekend Argus, 9 November 2009