K-9s: The unsung heroes of the east – WITN

EASTERN CAROLINA, N.C. (WITN) - From drug busts to hunting down criminals, you can count on them to help make Eastern Carolina a safer place, but here's the catch. They don't get to carry guns or handcuffs while they work. These superheroes are called Police K-9s.

Patrol dogs, better known as K-9s, are specifically trained to assist law enforcement. They can be taught to sniff out drugs and bombs, locate suspects, find weapons, and more.

Rocky is a Patrol K-9 for the Pitt County Sheriff's Office. His handler, Deputy Nathan Edwards, says Rocky's talents never cease to amaze him

Edwards said, "Their capability, how well they smell is just unmatched. It's just an awesome resource. Saves many man-hours."

And K-9s can do things beyond what people and computers are capable of. They also work up to 12-hour shifts.

"These dogs can do stuff that technology can't do," Edwards said.

Michael Bullock has been training K-9s at Bullock's K-9 training, in Greenville, around the world for over 35-years now. He says the 16-to-20-week training is extensivewhich is split between the trainer and the officer who will handle the dog.

"The patrol work... the tracking, narcotics, explosives, arson, bed bugs; you name it. If it's got an odor to it, you can train 'em to find it," said Bullock.

Not to mention the cost: $10,000 - $20,000. Bullock says the results are priceless.

Bullock said, "One lost child, one lost elderly person, one life saved; how much is that worth?"

Just to compare regular dogs to K-9s, Prince is WITN's Tresia Bowles' one-year-old Shih Tzu. When asked to sniff out marijuana, he simply ignored the drug. However, when a K-9-in-training walked into the same room, she noticed it immediately.

Nathan Edwards explains how quickly these dogs jump into action.

"We had a sexual assault," Edwards said, "It was maybe five to ten detectives and deputies out for two hours looking for the weapon that was used in the crime."

"Within ten minutes, the dog found the actual article. And many detectives and deputies walked past it."

Rebecca Hopper is an Investigator with the Craven County Sheriff's Office. She says her K-9 Ringo's nose power never ceases to amaze her.

Hopper said, "I can think of several instances where Ringo has alerted us to the odor of narcotics on the outside of the vehicle. The misconception is, the dogs can't smell certain things... If, in case, they are trying to hide illegal narcotics, the dogs can smell through that regardless."

And not only do the officers work with the dogs, but they also live with the dogs. Investigator Rebecca Hopper says she and Ringo have a unique bond.

Hopper said, "It's a very special bond because even though at home, we're playing and we're having a good time; out here on the street, they know whenever it is gametime... And they do protect us."

Edwards said, "He's like one of my kids. You know? When we're at work, we're always playing, doing stuff, trying to have fun. And same thing at home: when I'm in the yard, he's right in the yard right beside me."

Edwards and Hopper both agree that these furry friends are huge assets to their sheriff's office.

"If we have a two-year-old that's missing, and we need a dog to track that two-year-old immediately; if we have to wait another hour for that other K-9 to come from an outside agency it costs lives. It, you know, just extends that time," said Hopper.

"In my opinion, it's really hard to be effective in law enforcement in today's time without a resource such as a K-9," said Edwards.

Hopper also said families with missing loved ones should contact law enforcement first before going to search on their own or with a search party, as all of the scents may hinder the K-9s from being able to do their jobs. Both sheriff's offices have four K-9s currently, and the Craven County Sheriff's Office hopes to add one more.

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K-9s: The unsung heroes of the east - WITN

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