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Police-dog services enhancing property crime response

RCMP police dog services work around the clock supporting police officers across the province. Credit: RCMP


When RCMP S/Sgt. Troy Raddatz and Police Service Dog Hulk get a call, they're on the road in minutes, any time of the day.

Raddatz and the 17 other police dog services teams across Alberta did that hundreds of times in 2020. Last year, Alberta RCMP Police Dog Services (PDS) responded to 2,800 calls and captured more than 900 suspects.

"Our primary job function is public and police officer safety," says Raddatz, manager of the Alberta RCMP PDS program. "We support all RCMP units and we're utilized in all manners of rural property crime policing."

Property Crime

PDS have taken on a key role in Alberta RCMP's property crime enforcement operations – helping find and catch suspects in rural areas.

RCMP Cst. Brent MacDonald, with the Eastern Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit, says support from the PDS is helpful when targeting violent, high-risk and prolific offenders.

"Having the Police Dog Services ready to go really limits the time and distance an offender can get away," says MacDonald.

In 2020, RCMP PDS in Alberta responded to nearly a thousand property crime-related offences. In many cases, the suspect was unknown when police responded.

"The ability to track and locate unknown suspects in invaluable," says Raddatz.

The teams tracked people in 700 cases last year.

RCMP dog handlers also support investigations with their policing knowledge. Dog handlers are often experienced police officers and can provide insight and advice during complex situations.

"They have a lot of experience and do a lot of work with emergency response teams and we can leverage their knowledge and experience," says MacDonald.

PDS routinely assists other RCMP units, such as general duty officers, major crime units and emergency response teams, as they recover evidence, search for suspects and conduct high-risk operations.

While general duty police service dogs have different specialized sniffing profiles – some are trained to detect narcotics, explosives or human remains–all are trained in criminal apprehension and to locate human scent-related articles and firearms.

Enhancing safety

The ability to find people investigators can't allows police service dogs to enhance both public and officer safety.

MacDonald recalls a nighttime search for a homicide suspect last year where a police dog found a person who remained hidden from investigators and even a helicopter's thermal imaging technology.

"It was a very chaotic situation and the guy was waiting there to ambush us. I think the police dog saved lives that night," says MacDonald.

RCMP Cpl. Andrew Druhan, who's based in St. Paul and works across eastern Alberta with his canine partner Lotus, says the variety of calls to which he responds highlights the value of the dog service.

"You can have an individual fleeing from a stolen vehicle where it's all happening right now, all the way down to searching for evidence," says Druhan. "Everything's happened, but they're missing a critical piece of evidence and you respond with the dog and find that key piece tying the investigation up."

While police service dogs enhance safety, their work isn't without risks. This summer, two RCMP dogs were killed in the line of duty and another was stabbed.

All RCMP service dogs are purebred German Shepherds, which have been bred since 1999 at the Police Dog Service Training Centre in Innisfail, Alta.

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