4-Legged Troopers Help Highway Patrol Catch Drug Smugglers
The Ohio State Highway Patrol seized more than $117 million worth of cash, property and drugs last year during traffic stops.
They have some partners who play a key role in this effort -- partners born in the Netherlands.
For Trooper Pluto, it's time for a monthly refresher course.
He races to a parked car and scratches at the gas tank.
Hidden inside is a packet of heroin.
The usual reward for finding drugs is pride in a job well done, but for this officer...
"He gets rewarded with a PVC rubber pipe," says his partner and handler Trooper Mike Wilson.
Pluto is one of 34 canine troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
There are four more in training. While these Dutch shepherds are helpful in finding lost people, they're also experts in chasing down bad guys and stopping them cold.
"The entire goal is to hold that person in that general vicinity, so they don't move, they don't go anywhere," says Lt. Gurjit Grewal.
He explains that drug traffickers pass through Ohio, and they also bring drugs here to distribute.
So two years ago, the patrol decided to focus attention on corking that pipeline.
He says that while the OSP’s first job is highway safety, now they also are training troopers to ask more questions during traffic stops.
"As we start to notice that there are other indications that relate to them possibly being involved in any kind of criminal activity, then we'll go ahead and pursue that," he says.
If troopers are suspicious over the way a driver or passenger is acting, they'll call in a canine for a sniff test.
Grewal says it doesn't matter how well hidden, if there are drugs, the dog will find them.
"We've seen them just about anywhere you could think of, and just when you think that you've seen it all, they come up with something, something new," he says.
For example, in a bust last year, troopers found drugs hidden in a secret compartment behind a car's tail lights.
For Trooper Mike Wilson, Pluto is more than a hardworking partner in the Highway patrol's drug war. He's also a friend, affectionate with Wilson's kids, but eager to work.
"He's definitely an asset and a tool that we use, and he's very good at what he does. So he makes it easy on me," Wilson says.
Sometimes these dogs find all sort of other contraband as well. At one traffic stop, a dog alerted to drugs helped troopers find a tiny amount of marijuana -- and thousands of dollars worth of stolen Dr. Dre headphones.
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