Two new canine members have joined the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
Hektor and Sito, both trained German Shepherds, make up the K-9 unit that was put into service in November of 2012.
Sheriff Michael Miller said the K-9 unit aids in creating a safer community.
“When I decided to do this I wanted to make sure it was worthwhile for Shelby County,” Miller said. “I just want to make sure the community is safe.”
The dogs are used in addition to traditional police work.
“We’re looking for criminal elements beyond traffic stops, people who are transporting illegal substances in their cars,” he said. “The dogs can detect several types of narcotics.”
According to Deputy Brandon Murray, the dogs and their handlers go through extensive training.
“There’s a 10-week academy through the Illinois State Police for the officers and dogs,” Murray said.
The handlers also routinely train with their dogs each day.
He said the dogs were trained as patrol dogs with training in tracking, narcotics and apprehension.
Sheriff Miller said the dogs were brought in to help protect the community.
“We don’t want to create any inconvenience for good people,” Miller said.
He also said drug cartels have been known to move through the roadways that run through the county.
“If it can keep one child from becoming addicted it will be well worth it,” Miller said.
Deputy Dustin Lustig said the dogs aid the officers in situations involving narcotics that would normally be difficult for an officer to distinguish on his own.
“There are a lot of drugs in the county and the dogs are cutting that in half,” Lustig said. “You’re not having to rely on your own senses.”
In traffic stops, the dogs are able to identify the presence of illegal substances before officers would normally be able to.
Murray said the K-9 unit also helps prevent other crimes in the community through their efforts.
“You can trace crimes back to drugs,” Murray said. “We’re cutting the head off the snake.”
Deputy Lustig said the dogs have made a major difference in the community.
The office also relies on the support of local business for the care of the dogs.
“We’d like to thank the county and local businesses, especially Brix Veterinarian Service in Shelbyville and Mars Petcare of Mattoon,” Lustig said.
Sheriff Miller said the dogs were an investment that benefits the entire area.
“They are a benefit for everyone of Shelby County, excluding criminals,” Miller said.