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Published July 02, 2012, 05:17 PM

K-9s Trained to Sniff Out Common Narcotics, But Not Synthetics

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - For at least two decades, "man's best friend" has helped police track down drugs and criminals.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - For at least two decades, "man's best friend" has helped police track down drugs and criminals.

While the K-9s can sniff out drugs like cocaine, marijuana and hash, there's one thing they can't sense and it's a major problem right now locally: synthetic drugs.

Officers say because ingredients in these synthetic drugs are changing all the time, it's hard to train a police dog to detect them.

In a K-9 demonstration on Monday, people got the chance to see what these dogs can do.

Andrew Stein has worked with his partner Reno for more than three years.

"They are able to do with their noses a lot more detailed search than an officer would. Whether it's looking for a suspect, drugs, anything along those lines," Stein said.

Reno was born in Germany, trained in Canada for the first year of his life and now lives with his handler Corporal Andrew Stein. The dog's training continues on a daily basis.

"He's trained in a variety of things, tracking, building searches, drug searches, article searches. So he's kind of a jack of all trades," Stein said.

"What I do is help out. I'm considered a decoy, help do bite work, and help him track," Grand Forks Police officer Louis Christoffer said.

Reno is one of two dogs that work for the Grand Forks Police Department.

The dogs are trained to sniff out commonly-found narcotics. But it's difficult to train a dog to find synthetics.

"When a person thinks of a police drug dog you are looking at the major common narcotics: marijuana, hash, cocaine, things along those lines. In my experience I haven't necessarily seen the synthetics trained as far as drug detection with a dog," Stein said.

That's because the ingredients in synthetic drugs are ever-changing.

"You would always be behind the curb because the bad guys are making x,y,z and we're trying to play catch up behind that x,y,z. That's generally why we stick to the general narcotics," Stein said.

Still, officers say no matter what kind of drug, they are lucky to have a little extra help on the streets.

"We'll bring Reno and he'll see if he can find out where they're at. If they are in the trunk, wheel well, spare tire, under the seat. Those are a lot of the common places," Christoffer said.

Officers say training is a continuous process with the dogs, who usually start at a young age.