The presence of narcotics in a community can have an obvious impact on the quality of life. When drugs run rampant, other associated crimes increase. These can include an increase in burglaries, thefts, assaults, and weapon offenses. For that reason, the Dickinson Police Department is determined to take a proactive role in the war on drugs. One weapon in that war is the drug detection K-9.
The Dickinson Police Department received its first drug detection K-9 in the summer of 2006. The first dog, "Duke", has since retired.
The current members of the department's K-9 Unit are Officer Corey Lee and K-9 "Buster" and Officer John Hiltunen and K-9 "Samson".
K-9 Buster is a purebred Chocolate Labrador Retriever. Buster came to us from Becker Canines in Richardton and has been thoroughly trained in the detection of narcotics, tracking, and article searches.
Officer Lee and Buster were certified by Midwest Canine Alternatives in late June 2007. Buster passed his certification test with flying colors and has been successful in taking drugs off the streets of Dickinson ever since.
Other duties that Officer Lee and Buster will be performing include traveling to schools, neighborhood watch groups, and other functions to inform the public about the K-9 program and narcotics in general.
K-9 Samson is the fourth drug detection dog that Becker Canines has donated to the department. He is a purebred Chocolate Labrador Retriever. Samson also comes extensively trained on alerting to the odor of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.
Officer John Hiltunen is currently paired with K-9 Samson. They were recently certified by Midwest Canine Alternatives in May 2012 and are now eligible for use.
Together with Officer Lee and K-9 Buster, Officer Hiltunen and K-9 Samson work opposite shifts to ensure that a drug dog is on the streets on almost any night or day of the week.
The K-9 Unit works closely with the Southwest Narcotics Task Force (SWNTF) to develop patrol tactics and share intelligence. Many arrests that the K-9 Unit makes end up helping the SWNTF by connecting the area drug ring.
The Unit also assists the department's School Resource Officer. The team is often called upon by the area schools to perform random drug sniffs on school property.
Buster and Samson are not the only drug detection dogs in the area. The team also trains and works closely with the Stark County Sheriff's Department and North Dakota Highway Patrol. Both agencies have their own drug detection dog.
As the energy boom of southwest North Dakota continues to expand, the community will be tested on its ability to deal with the possible increase in drugs and their associated crimes. Learning from the lessons of the late 1970's oil boom, the department is determined to be proactive in meeting the challenges that the community will be facing. We are confident that with the SWNTF being as strong as it has been in years, with the addition of drug detection dogs, and with the continued support of the city commission and citizens, our community will be an example for others around the region to follow.