THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
A presentation on the Tarboro Police Department’s K-9 program by Cpl. Mike Trevathan left the more than 50 members of the Tarboro Golden K Kiwanis asking questions as to why two recently retired dogs are not being replaced.
When asked why the two dogs were not being replaced, Trevathan said, “I can’t tell you that. I haven’t been given a good answer. Money in the past came from the town budget.”
That’s when the questioning moved from Trevathan to current town council member and announced mayoral candidate Rick Page, a member of the club.
“I don’t know why the program was cut. I’ll find out why,” Page said, adding that he felt the thought process from the police department was tied to a switch to community policing, placing officers in schools and working to stop persons from becoming criminals.”
Former town manager Sam Noble, also a club member, said, “We always prided ourselves on our K-9 program. We had one of the best programs in the state (based on competitions and results.”
Several club members asked about the funding source for the K-9s and whether donations could be made to help raise funds to purchase new dogs.
Page told the group that the town had always taken the approach that it should provide public safety-type items and that the citizens shouldn’t have to provide funding.
“The town funded them for 22 years out of the General Fund,” Noble said.
Trevathan, who got K-9 Tazer out of his cruiser following the meeting to show club members how the dog responded to commands, shared a number of stories with the group to help them understand the value of the dogs to what the police are working to accomplish.”
Trevathan recounted the night in the summer of 2008 when an inmate escaped from the jail annex. As it turned out, a total of five escape and one was in jail for 1st degree murder.
That’s the one Trevathan came across as he drove down Bradley Avenue.
“I see this guy walking in an orange jump suit,” he recounted as the audience laughed. Trevathan said he identified himself to the fleeing felon and advised that he would turn Tazer loose if he didn’t stop.
“He ran,” he said. Trevathan said Tazer was in full pursuit when the suspect stopped and put up his hands. “I called him off.”
Trevathan said after he took the inmate into custody, another call came that four other inmates had also escaped and the K-9s were also successful in tracking them down in the wooded area around Pitt Street and along the river.
Tarboro’s K-9s work other cases other than crime-related, he said, noting that they have been used to locate missing children and the elderly as well as patients suffering from dementia.
But the K-9s are good at what they were obtained to do, locating drugs in vehicles, buildings and open areas.
Trevathan said the dogs, described as being on aggressive alert, are not used to sniff people.
They have been trained at Ventosa Kennels, just outside Scotland Neck, to find marijuana, cocaine (both powder and crack), heroin, meth and ecstasy.
He told of an incident where a vehicle was stopped for excessive window tint. When Trevathan approached the driver, he was told he didn’t have a driver’s license. When asked if he could search the vehicle, the driver said it wasn’t his and would not grant permission.
Trevathan said Tazer worked the exterior of the car, alerting on an area near the bottom of the passenger-side door. That alert provided probable cause for a search, which revealed drugs, money and a weapon.
As it turned out, the driver had provided a false name, but when Tazer alerted and the search was executed, he confessed to officers and gave his real name.
As it turned out, he was a high-ranking gang member from Rocky Mount.
“Without the dog, he would have just been cited for no driver’s license,” Trevathan noted.
The presence of K-9s on the department provide the equivalent of a number of additional officers, Trevathan said in response to a question.
“One dog can do the work of 20 to 30 officers with the search work, etc., and they can do it faster than an officer,” he said.
Trevathan said prior to the department’s starting its own program in 1990, it had to rely on outside agencies which were 90 minutes away.
“Time is a critical factor,” he explained. “With our own program, we can be there quickly.”
Prior to the retirement of two dogs, there was a K-9 on each shift.
Trevathan said the sheriff’s office currently has four dogs and the two agencies work together well. “One of theirs recently died, but they are replacing it next month.”