MUNCIE, Ind. -- A city battling a heroin epidemic needs more crime fighting tools. The Muncie Police Department is looking to add four K9s to the force, but at thousands of dollars a piece, these highly trained drug sniffing dogs aren't cheap and the department is hoping the community will chip in to help foot the bill.
In a city like Muncie, with a high drug crime rate, you would think there would be a full force of K9s. So far this year, the city's drug task force had 30 SWAT calls on warrants for drug crimes.
"There are a lot of times where we’ll call for a K9 and no one is available," said Muncie Police Chief Joe Winkle.
In his department, there are only two K9 officers, Jan and Carlos. These dogs and their handlers are working overtime responding to thousands of calls each year for the department.
Jan and his handler, Josh Carrington, respond to three or four calls per shift. Carlos has hit on a drug scent nearly 200 times within a year with his handler, Chris Wells. Tackling the city's drug epidemic is no easy task.
"The drug trade is not after dark, it goes on all the time, so if we have two per shift, that keeps us a dog working all the time," Chief Winkle said.
The two dogs on the department right now are Belgian Malinois. They were trained by a kennel in Denver, Indiana and then brought to the police department for additional training with the handler. The dogs are multi-function. They can pick up the scent of even the smallest amounts of drugs in just seconds. They also do tracking, building searches and apprehend suspects. They can also search for missing people.
With more powerful drugs, including fentanyl, officers are cautious to begin searching a car without a K9 present.
"I think it’s beneficial for us to have the dogs on the car so that we know there’s something there, rather than us just searching through the car or asking the occupants if they have anything on them, and often times, they don’t tell us the truth," Chief Winkle said.
Each dog costs more than $10,000. Chief Winkle said typically, they go to city council to request additional funds, but the budget is tight after being granted money for new cars and equipment.
The department is setting up a fundraising campaign effort and hoping to get local leaders and business owners involved. If a business makes a significant donation, they can have their business name printed on the side of the K9 vehicle for the lifetime of the K9. Other donations could result in an office "meet and greet" with the new sponsored K9 and employees. The city is also accepting donations directly to the police department to be marked specifically for new K9s.
The goal is to raise $30,000. You can find out more on how to donate by calling The Muncie Police Department at 765-747-4838.