Dogs help officers identify criminal activity at ports of entry

ADOT officers are using K-9 units to combat illegal drugs and human smuggling. (Submitted photo)

To help reduce smuggling of drugs and people, Arizona Department of Transportation officers at commercial ports of entry in eastern and western Arizona are using the agency’s first K-9 units.

Between December and May, the two K-9 units, based at the Interstate 10 Ehrenberg Port of Entry near California and the Interstate 40 Sanders Port of Entry near New Mexico, have helped officers seize more than 350 pounds of marijuana, 600 vials of hash oil and $90,000 in illicit bulk currency, according to a release. They have inspected hundreds of vehicles and aided other law enforcement agencies.

“Protecting public safety is the No. 1 responsibility of state government,” Gov. Doug Ducey stated in the release. “We’re committed to making sure law enforcement agencies, including the highly trained officers keeping watch at our commercial ports of entry, have the resources they need to combat drug trafficking and human smuggling.”

The units are part of ADOT’s Enforcement and Compliance Division, which enforces laws involving commercial vehicle safety and permits, registration and driver’s license fraud, unlicensed auto dealers, among other areas.

While conducting safety inspections of commercial vehicles, ADOT officers occasionally discover apparent criminal activity that includes smuggling of drugs, cash, weapons and people, according to the release.

“This is a matter of highway safety,” ADOT Director John Halikowski stated. “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 Belgian Malinois K-9s are trained to detect illegal drugs and human cargo. From their bases in Ehrenberg and Sanders, the units work at interstate ports of entry along the California and New Mexico state lines.

The pilot program to obtain and train both K-9s cost $29,000.

Officers with ADOT’s Enforcement and Compliance Division also investigate fraud involving driver licenses and vehicle titles and assist other law enforcement agencies when requested.

The Apache Junction Independent is mailed each month to 35,000 homes.

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