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Police K-9 to sniff out drugs
Police will soon have a new weapon in combating drugs in Ceres. Suzi, a 14-month-old yellow Labrador, will soon be on the job, sniffing out drugs being carried in cars, hidden on suspects and stashed in secret locations of houses being searched.

Even though she has six more weeks of training, Suzi was introduced to the Ceres City Council Monday evening. The visit served a dual purpose. Council members were thanked for approving the canine narcotics unit. Sgt. Deidre Borges also offered her thanks to representatives of Food 4 Less in Ceres who donated $5,000 to buy and train the new dog.

Also on hand was the dog's trainer, Luther Evans of Evolution Dog Training in Atwater.

Borges noted that while Ceres police made 350 drug-related arrests in 2009, more arrests could have been made with a drug-sniffing canine.

Ceres presently only has two canines for apprehension purposes only. Because of the substantial amount of time required to maintain the minimum training standards set forth by the state, the dogs are not trained in sniffing out narcotics.

"We had a cross trained canine but we found, like most departments, that they don't work," said Lt. Brent Smith. "They generally tend to be strong in one area and weak in one area. We want the dog trained for one discipline."

The new dog will be assigned by the patrol division to maximize its exposure for locating drugs in vehicles during vehicle stops and patrol and probation checks. The dog will also be used by the Street Crimes Unit during drug-related investigations and search warrants.

Smith said it's not an illegal search if the dog - which is being trained to sniff out methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin - picks up the scent in a car stopped in a random traffic stop. The dog's reaction is probable cause for the human officer to conduct the search.

"Dogs smell 300 times greater than humans so it really doesn't take much," said Lt. Smith.

Methamphetamine is the biggest problem in Ceres, said Lt. Smith. The dog will not be trained to sniff out marijuana, mostly because the state may likely legalize pot one day and it would be difficult to "untrain the dog," he said.

"It's very difficult for us to deal with marijuana right now with cards and dispensaries."