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Tue, June 18

The Nose Knows: County K9s partner with DPS task force

YCSO K9 handler Steve Warburton demonstrates a drug alert with his partner during a public demonstration at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds Tuesday, July 17, 2018, for the 26th annual Canine Survival Seminar at Yavapai College. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

YCSO K9 handler Steve Warburton demonstrates a drug alert with his partner during a public demonstration at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds Tuesday, July 17, 2018, for the 26th annual Canine Survival Seminar at Yavapai College. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Drug dealers and criminal smugglers now have one more thing to worry about when driving through Yavapai County.

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) has agreed to have its four K9 units be a part of the Arizona Border Strike Force Bureau.

Managed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS), the strike force’s ultimate goal is to “deter, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations that breach the border in their quest to set up business in our state,” according to AZDPS’s website.

One way of accomplishing this mission is by building a web of law enforcement agencies throughout Arizona who consistently share intelligence on where and when drugs or other illicit items may be getting transported along the state’s major highways, byways and thoroughfares.

“So if [AZDPS] get information on drug smuggling cartels working northbound after they got through the border, we’re going to get that intelligence,” Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher said.

Included in the deal is advanced training for YCSO’s K9s provided by AZDPS, as well as financial support.

“The Department of Public Safety will pick up the salaries of our four K-9 officers at 75 percent, including overtime,” Mascher said.

This amounts to about $292,995 in savings for the county, he said.

When brought before the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors for approval on Feb. 20, there was unanimous support for signing the contract, which went into effect March 1.

“[The public] may think we are not on the border itself; however, we have to realize that I-17 and I-40 are two main areas of transportation of illicit drugs, and we know they’re coming in this way,” Yavapai County Supervisor Craig Brown said.

Those drugs and their prevalence, Mascher said, are methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl, in that order.

Since Jan. 1, 2018, busts by YCSO K9s have resulted in the seizure of 31.75 pounds of meth, 12.5 pounds of heroin and 500 fentanyl tablets.

‘PANT’ may see boost

With the savings from this deal, Mascher intends to ask the Board of Supervisors during its upcoming budget review process to increase YCSO’s staffing contribution for Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking (PANT) by three people.

He wants to use the money for PANT because of the declines in funding the multi-agency task force is facing due to recent changes in law and criminal activity.

“This is going to help us stabilize financial difficulties we’re having in PANT,” Mascher said.

But this plan is only a temporary solution for PANT’s funding dilemma, because the contract with AZDPS has a five-year renewal cap after July 1, 2020, and annual renewal is contingent upon legislative allocated budget approval for the applicable fiscal year.

Mascher said they will face that challenge when it comes.

“If [the contract] goes away completely, we’ll fill [the PANT positions] through attrition or I’d go to the board and ask to fill those positions down the road,” Mascher said.

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