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New K-9 team taking bite out of crime

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POSTED: September 4, 2007 5:03 a.m.
The Long County Sheriff's Department has welcomed a new officer to its force.
The new member of the department is a little shorter than the rest of the team, a lot hairier, and she does her job diligently for praise and a little rubber ball.
Her name is Bekky. She’s a German shepherd that joined the force on July 27.
Bekky is the third drug dog the department has had, but the first since 2002.
“All the dogs we have had, have been successful. But we have really needed another one for quite some time,” Sheriff Cecil Nobles said.
Bekky’s partner is Deputy T.J. Gaskin, and the pair had to complete an extensive Basic Narcotics Handler Course before the canine could join the sheriff’s department.
The course is a 160-hour program that includes classroom and fieldwork. The fieldwork portion of the program teaches the dog and the handler how to locate illegal drugs in buildings, vehicles, open areas and other environments.
The course was provided in Savannah, and testing for the certification included the dog achieving an 85 percent pass rate in finding hidden drugs in the areas mentioned above.
The test also included a 20-minute “blank time,” where there were no drugs hidden, and the dog couldn’t have any incorrect responses.
According to Gaskin, is K-9 partner is a passive response narcotics dog.
“When Bekky detects an illegal drug, she will sit down, and then I will reward her.”
Gaskin was quick to say, “There are a lot of people who think these dogs are trained by being on drugs, but that’s a big misconception. They are trained with positive reinforcement.
“When she sits, the more attention she gets and praise, the more happy she is. Her biggest reward is her rubber ball,” he said.
Gaskin works with his partner every week in proficiency training, and they have to go through an annual recertification process.
Gaskin said the cost of getting a dog such as Bekky and to certify her and a handler is less than $10,000, and he noted, “The K-9 program is almost a must if you are going to try to keep the drugs off the street.”
According to Nobles, the department had been raising money for quite some time through local businesses and private donations until they had the money to go ahead with the program.
“We appreciate all those who made contributions, and it didn’t take Bekky long to pay for herself,” the sheriff said.
Gaskin and Bekky have already been involved in making eight arrests involving illegal drugs, totally $10,730 in fines and bonds, he said.
He noted, “Besides using Bekky in our county, we also have assisted Liberty County and the Georgia State Patrol and we are available to help whoever needs us.
Nobles said, “The drug problem is getting worse and worse, and we have to do all we can and use every available option we can to tackle the problem.”
 

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