A municipal policeman directs his black and tan German shepherd dog to sniff out hidden contraband. Photo: Supplied (CoCT)
A municipal policeman directs his black and tan German shepherd dog to sniff out hidden contraband. Photo: Supplied (CoCT)

Criminals beware, City of Cape Town’s K9s can’t be fooled

By ANA Reporter Time of article published Oct 25, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - With drug dealers becoming increasingly creative in the transport and concealment of their stash, the City of Cape Town Metro Police K9 unit has proven repeatedly that they cannot be thrown off the trail, the city said on Sunday.

Over a 14-month period, the metro police K9 unit has recovered 15 330 units of drugs, mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said in a statement.

Nearly 60 percent of the narcotics was handed over to the South African Police Service (SAPS) as "abandoned", meaning no arrests were made in these instances.

"One of the tactics employed by drug dealers is to hide their stash in an empty field or crevices in the pavement and so forth, so the K9s recover the drugs but there is no one to arrest, as it is not found on a person or a property that can be linked to an individual. However, these operations and confiscations disrupt the supply chain, so all is not lost," he said.

"We’ve also noticed a few other trends which suggest that the dealers aren’t overly familiar with the abilities of our K9s. This includes hiding contraband inside vehicle engines, the dashboard, and other panels in their vehicles. Just a few days ago, K9 Savage sniffed out R50,000 worth of cocaine that was hidden in the dashboard compartment of a vehicle," Smith said.

The K9 unit had also reported increasing instances of suspects trying to throw the dogs off the scent by hiding their stash with black pepper or other chemicals, and hiding drugs in trees, as they believed that the dogs are not able to search in high places.

"The K9s are trained to focus on the smells they were trained to detect and their abilities are of such a nature that they cancel out all other scents, so it really is a colossal waste of time to try and fool our four-legged colleagues or their human handlers," Smith said.

"I recall an operation in Lavender Hill a few years ago where suspects at a known drug outlet put a stash of drugs in a drain pipe on the property and then covered it with dog faeces, likely hoping that staff wouldn’t dare check, but they were wrong," he said.

The K9 unit currently had 22 operational canines, 12 of which were used for narcotics detection, six specialised in the detection of explosives, and four focused on "urban man trailing", including missing persons. The breeds in use included bloodhounds, pointers, German shepherds, Dutch shepherds, and several mixed-breed dogs.

Between July 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020, the unit made 265 arrests, of which nearly 70 percent were drug-related. They confiscated 15 330 units of drugs, with Mandrax the most common drug recovered, R85 721 in cash, and seven firearms and imitation firearms and 52 rounds of ammunition.

During the hard Covid-19 lockdown, the K9s also played a crucial role on the frontline, conducting searches at roadblocks, instead of their handlers, and thus mitigating the risk of exposure to the virus, Smith said.

- African News Agency (ANA), editing by Jacques Keet

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