Sniffing out drug crime

Humberside Police dog handlers, PC Neil Walker with 'Bobby' and PC Mick Bentley with 'Mia'.Picture: Richard Doughty Photography
Humberside Police dog handlers, PC Neil Walker with 'Bobby' and PC Mick Bentley with 'Mia'.Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

They are the cutting edge in Humberside Police’s arsenal against illegal drug use and they’re coming for a sniff around you.

Bobby and Mia are a two-year-old springer spaniel and two-year-old black Labrador respectively and, despite their young ages, are leading the fight in the campaign against drugs.

PC Neil Walker with sniffer dog, 'Bobby'. Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

PC Neil Walker with sniffer dog, 'Bobby'. Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

Sergeant Ian Foster of Humberside Police’s Specialist Operations Unit Dog Team is in charge of the newly appointed dogs.

“Bobby’s really excitable” he said. “He and Mia have been with us for just over a year now and we train them every couple of months.”

The dynamic duo are ‘passive drug dogs’ and are trained to sniff out not only those in possession of drugs, but also people who have been in contact with them.

That could be anyone who has recently taken a drug or even if they have been in the same room as a user.

Police sniffer dog, 'Bobby'. Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

Police sniffer dog, 'Bobby'. Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

“Every time one of the dogs sits down next to someone it’s because they can smell drugs on them,” Sergeant Foster added. “Some people will say they don’t have anything on them, but then they do.

“They won’t always get arrested. We can offer them help with their drug use and we do a lot of work with the ReNew drug and alcohol service in Hull.”

Sergeant Foster and his team of 18, including the dog handlers, target their enforcement on busy town centres or other areas in the East Riding where drugs are rife.

The Dog Section also patrol the night time economy, visiting clubs, pubs and other places known to the police as drug hotspots.

PC Neil Walker with sniffer dog, 'Bobby' searching for drugs. Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

PC Neil Walker with sniffer dog, 'Bobby' searching for drugs. Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

“It’s definitely making a difference,” Sergeant Foster said. “It’s not about hitting people with a big stick, it’s about helping people.

“The dogs are funded by the NHS who spend a lot of money on medication concerning drug-related issues. The police also spend a lot of money chasing criminals.”

Between September last year and August this year Humberside Police recorded 1,588 drug crimes.

However this figure does not include the number of ‘acquisitive’ crimes, the illegal actions taken by users to fund their habits. Nor does it take into account the far reaching impact drugs have on communities and the devastation it can reap on families.

Sgt Ian Foster of Humberside Police dog section.Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

Sgt Ian Foster of Humberside Police dog section.Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

“I have seen the effect drugs have on people,” Sergeant Foster said. “I have seen people when they first start to take drugs and then a few years down the line. They look terrible.”

“The dogs are definitely making a difference. It has also opened up a dialogue with members of the public – everyone wants to stop and stroke the dogs.”

The pooches’ loveliness aside, Sergeant Foster and his team have a serious job to carry out alongside their furry colleagues.

Pinpointing and helping users while weeding out the dealers is all in a day’s work for Bobby and Mia.

Sniffing out trouble...Police dog Mia looking for drugs.Picture: Richard Doughty Photography

Sniffing out trouble...Police dog Mia looking for drugs.Picture: Richard Doughty Photography