Since the beginning of 2019, community funded police dogs have locally sniffed out millions — that’s right, millions — of dollars of worth of illegal drugs in Rome and Floyd County.
Both the Rome and Floyd County police departments K-9 units partner with the Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force. A sizable single bust this week of over 3 and a half pounds of methamphetamine was a recent example of the fruits of that partnership.
Two of the dogs — FCPD’s Lt. Lex and RPD’s Ash — brought in that bust this week and over the past year have led to millions of dollars of confiscated illegal drugs, money and items.
They also assist the metro task force in an overall community effort to combat the drug problem.
“A lot of times (the busts) are just one piece of the puzzle,” said task force Assistant Commander RPD Sgt. Joel Stroupe. Stopping drug trafficking is a community effort and the dogs are just one part of a team.
On average, the task force receives 10 complaints per week from tips and often those complaints are linked to a single person or location. But along with that the task force is continuously following up on multiple leads, Stroupe said.
The investigations cover a gamut of offenses — from drug activity to prostitution to gambling.
Since these K-9s began working with the task force in mid-August they’ve followed up on 20 complaints resulting in the arrests of over 40 people.
But that’s not all these dogs do.
Even just being there — maintaining a presence in the community — Stroupe said goes a long way to deter crime and provides an outlet for communication between the task force and the community.
Lex and his partner Sgt. Shea Hovers conduct investigative stops as part of their patrol duties but also assist the metro task force and SWAT.
Ash, and his partner Pfc. Josh Glover, is also a dual purpose K-9 and has the ability to track, search and apprehend suspects. Using this training Ash earned a life saving award for locating a missing woman along with her infant during the late hours of the night.
In 2019 alone, Floyd County police estimate Lex has directly led to the confiscation of $1,992,510.60 worth of cash and drugs. Pound for pound that adds up to more than 48 pounds of seized marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and ecstasy. Using High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area standards, the street value of the confiscated drugs alone is $1,961,133.60.
Compare that to the community investment in Lex who was purchased from K2 Solutions in North Carolina for $12,750.
“We’re happy to report to everyone who supported us that we have been a good steward of fundraising money from the community,” said FCPD Chief Mark Wallace. “Lex has been a tremendous asset to our department and we can’t wait to see what the next year holds for him and his partner.”
Glover said the cost of the Rome Police Department’s two dogs — Ash and Amats — was $18,000 total. They were also both fully funded by community donations.
Since the beginning of 2019, Ash has led to numerous seizures of large quantities of drugs. Approximately 29 pounds of illegal narcotics have been removed from the streets, a street value of over once million dollars using HIDTA standards.
Both Ash and Lex are Belgian Malinois, a breed popular in law enforcement circles. Lex has been with the FCPD less than a year — he’ll celebrate his one year anniversary in December. Ash recently celebrated his two year anniversary at the RPD in September.
Different jobs for different dogs
While Lex and Ash are taking on the big drug busts, Floyd County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jimmy Allred said his K-9 Rhett can often be seen working with the school systems.
They get called in by school resource officers for a variety of reasons — random checks, classroom searches or even checking to see if drugs had been left in a parking lot.
“We work really well with our (school resource officers) at the board of education,” Allred said.
There are different dogs for different jobs, he said.
Blaze, along with his partner at the FCPD Sgt. Matt Henry, is trained to detect explosives and worked at Mercedes-Benz Stadium earlier this year to prepare for Super Bowl 53.
Snickers, partnered with Deputy Mike Williams, at the Sheriff’s office is a scent discriminating bloodhound. He’s the dog you send in if you had, for instance, a missing child. Give him a the scent off a pillow or clothing and he goes to work.
“He’ll track that one specific odor,” Allred said.
But let’s not forget Rhett’s haul this year. Allred said he’s brought in over $250,000 worth of cash and drugs — as well as cars in civil forfeitures. While he was donated to the FCSO at no cost, he would have cost around $10,000.
“In my opinion he’s paid for himself 25 times,” Allred said.