Jamaica News (JIS) – It is said that a dog is a man’s best friend, and for the police they are also worthy partners in the fight against crime.
Dogs have become a critical part of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) crime management strategy, particularly in the detection of illegal narcotics, firearms, and ammunition.
In recognition of the important role these animals play in this and other areas, the Government has moved to boost the capacity of the JCF’s Canine Division, having acquired 16 additional dogs between November 2017 and April 2018. This now brings the complement of highly trained dogs to 61.
Head of the Division, Superintendent of Police, Dalton Wright, boasts that the dogs, along with their human counterparts, “have been doing a tremendous job”.
“We have found (many) firearms, and illegal drugs (such as cocaine and ganja) and we have been doing (various activities) for safety purposes,” he tells JIS News.
He explains that the Division, which comprises 50 per cent dogs and the other half humans, also specialises in carrying out search and rescue operations, as well as a cadaver service, which involves locating human remains.
“Our cadaver dogs have been working marvelously, in the sense that they have been finding a lot of human remains that are connected to various crimes. So they help in the crime-fighting machinery that we have in Jamaica, and will continue to do so,” he assures.
He notes that operations are normally carried out at both international airports in Kingston and St. James; the Central Sorting Office; the Kingston Wharf; and the Kingston Freeport Terminal Ltd.
“We also do commercial checks at cruise-ship piers, (and offer) Very Important Person (VIP) protective services,” he says, adding that the dogs of the Labrador, German Shepherd, Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever breeds, are also trained to locate explosives.
Between January 1, 2011, and April 21, 2018, the division’s numerous operations led to the arrest of 193 foreigners and locals.
“The persons were arrested for breaches of the Dangerous Drugs Act, and the cases were brought before the court and disposed of,” Superintendent Whyte informs.
There were 224 drug detections, including cocaine amounting to 378.7lb; marijuana – 8,480.47lb; hashish – 292.75 ounces; hash oil – 656 ounces; and liquid cocaine – 14 quarts.
Also, during the period, the Division seized cash totaling $328,505 in local currency; and United States currency valuing US$32,520. Two motor vehicles were also seized.
In 2015, the division carried out 48 operations that led to the discovery of 117 weapons and several rounds of ammunition. These included 116 A1 rifles; one Smith and Wesson handgun; fourteen 5.56 cartridges; three .38 cartridges; 53 nine millimetre cartridges and two 9 millimetre magazines.
In terms of search and rescue operations, in 2016, the canines were instrumental in recovering the bodies of two American missionaries in a shallow grave. The men were allegedly murdered in St. Mary.
“The drugs, firearm and ammunition found were sent to the Government Forensic Laboratory for testing… (and) the contraband was destroyed in accordance with Force Policy,” Superintendent Whyte explains.
Newly appointed Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, says he is impressed with the work of the Division and pledged further support.
“It is a well-run unit. I think the officers in charge are capable (and) competent,” he told journalists during a tour of the facility at its Deanery Road location in Kingston on April 20.
The Minister informs that there are plans to import additional dogs to ensure there is an adequate number to carry out all the Division’s operations.
“We will have to expand the number…. We need a squad of about 82 trained dogs, organised between narcotics and firearm detection skills,” he says.
He notes that this is necessary given that the techniques being used by criminals involved in arms and drugs are getting more sophisticated.
Seven of the recently acquired dogs were sourced through dog-training company based in the United States of America (US), Stellar K-9.
Stellar K-9 trainer Steven Thompson tells JIS News that the dogs, which were brought in from Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, were trained in detecting firearms, ammunition, and spent-shell casings.
Other dogs housed at the Division were also sourced from Colombia and the US.
“They’ll be able to go into a homicide scene or a scene-of-crime and detect spent shells from a shooting (for example) that the detectives weren’t able to find,” he says.
He notes that the company will be bringing in two more dogs that will be trained in criminal apprehension, human tracking and firearm detection.
During the tour, Mr. Thompson and his partner gave a comprehensive demonstration on the expertise of what he termed “dual purpose” dogs.
“We demonstrated patrol work, which is criminal apprehension and complete obedience. Each dog needs to be trained on full obedience in order to get to the next level of training,”
The dog kennels at the Division were refurbished and expanded at a cost of $11.7 million last year. The expansion will increase the capacity of kennels from 70 to 105 and is to be completed this year.
Minister Chang was joined on the tour by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dianne McIntosh; Commissioner of Police, Antony Anderson, and other JCF personnel.
Featured image: Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang (second left), observes as main trainer with United States-based dog-training company, Stellar K-9, Marcelo Montiel (right), demonstrates the complete obedience proficiency of one of the dual purpose dogs that make up the team of 61 highly trained dogs at the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Canine Division. The Minister, along with (pictured from third left) Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson; and Permanent Secretary in the National Security Ministry, Dianne McIntosh, toured the facility at its Deanery Road location in Kingston on April 20.