The Arizona Department of Transportation said that an eight-month-old K-9 program being piloted by the agency's enforcement and compliance division is getting results, helping officers identify and seize drugs at two major "port of entry" locations.
The $29,000 program deployed two ADOT K-9 teams last December; one based at the Interstate 10 Ehrenberg Port of Entry near California and the other at the Interstate 40 Sanders Port of Entry near New Mexico. Through May of this year, the agency said the two teams combined have seized in excess of 350 pounds of marijuana, 600 vials of hash oil and $90,000 in illicit bulk currency, largely from screening commercial vehicles pulled over for safety inspections.
"This is a matter of highway safety," noted DOT Director John Halikowski in a statement. "Our officers, along with the Arizona Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies, find illegal drugs and cases of human smuggling on our highways. Adding K-9s where we are already screening commercial vehicles makes us a more capable and effective team."
The dogs used in the agency's K-9 pilot program are of the Belgian Malinois breed and are trained to detect illegal drugs and "human cargo" as part of the Arizona's efforts to interdict human smuggling.
The American Kennel Club describes the Belgian Malinois as medium-to-large breed of dog, with a life span of 12 to 14 years and weight ranging from 63 to 75 pounds for males and 55 to 66 pounds for females. It is a canine favored by police and military forces around the world, including the U.S. Secret Service, for its "alert, hard-working and protective" nature.
A Belgian Malinois also served with the Seal Team Six U.S. Navy unit that helicoptered into Pakistan and killed Osama Bin Laden in a raid on May 2, 2011.
ADOT is among a handful of state DOTs that are using K-9 units to perform a variety of duties. In 2014, for example, the Iowa Department of Transportation deployed a K-9 unit with its Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement to aid in drug-related investigations involving commercial vehicles.
Photo: Arizona DOT
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