Mechanicsburg wants K9 unit to fight heroin epidemic

A full-time police dog unit in the village of Mechanicsburg would make it easier for officers to get drugs off the street, according to Police Chief John Alexander.

A part-time K9 unit used to work in the village one or two times a month, Alexander said, but stopped a couple months ago.

Now, the chief says the heroin epidemic has hit the village so much, that it warrants a full-time unit.

“It would be a full-time K9 because the drugs is not a part-time problem,” he said.

The police department is applying for grants to cover the cost of training for the dog and handler, he said, and will also use money obtained from drug forfeitures.

The training will cost about $14,000, he said. In total, the cost should be about $40,000-$60,000, including the cruiser and officer’s salary.

A police dog can catch things humans can’t, Alexander said. He mentioned a recent traffic stop where officers suspected drugs were in in the car but didn’t have probable cause to search it.

“If (the dog) hits on the car, it gives you probable cause to go in and do a little bit more than you can do on your own,” Alexander said.

Officers should use all the tools they can to find drugs, said Brad Gregg, a leader of the group Mechanicsburg for a Healthy Community.

The group used to go by Mechanicsburg Citizens Against Heroin, he said, but recently changed its name and its focus. The group used to offer resources to addicts who wanted to get clean, he said, but found it too difficult with its limited size. It now helps recovering addicts, he said, and educates young people on the dangers of heroin.

“Having a well-trained dog on our police force would be an asset to the community and helping people,” Gregg said.

But it won’t be a quick fix, he said.

“It’s certainly not going to solve the problem,” he said, “but it is another tool for our officers to have available to them.”

Alexander hopes to have the K9 unit up and running by next summer.

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