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Cops' contraband canine uncanny

December 12, 2000

Cops' contraband canine uncanny



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Sabrina - drug detection dogThe newest member of the Washington County Narcotics Task Force can't fire a gun or drive a patrol car but has netted 10 arrests since September anyway.

The task force purchased Sabrina, a German shepherd drug dog, this year to help fight the area's drug trade, said Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Kevin Morgan, who is Sabrina's handler and a six-year member of the task force.

The 3-year-old female is trained to sniff out marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines.

She has been credited for a police seizure during drug raids of 21 grams of crack cocaine, an ounce of marijuana, a small amount of heroin, two vehicles and $8,424, said Morgan.

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During a recent demonstration at Hagerstown City Police station, Sabrina detected the smell of cocaine near a four-door sedan. With Morgan at her side, she sniffed the car frantically and within minutes found the source of the scent - a plastic bag of cocaine hidden in the area of the gas tank cover.

"She's like a vacuum cleaner," said task force Director Sgt. Rick Johnson.

Sabrina doesn't know she's looking for drugs or drug paraphernalia and doesn't care, Morgan said.

"She just does it because she knows she'll get her reward," he said.

Besides Morgan, her favorite thing is a small canvas bag, which she energetically fetches, chews and throws up into the air. She is given the bag after each successful search.

"She's high octane," said Morgan.

Sabrina spent several months being trained by Maryland Division of Corrections dog handlers and has a high success rate of drug finds, said Morgan. She is strictly a drug-detection dog and will not be cross-trained for attack work, he said.

Morgan estimated Sabrina will be put to work three or more times a week.

On Nov. 6, Sabrina sniffed out half an ounce of crack cocaine during a search of three rooms at the Quality Hotel.

As a result, three adults and one juvenile were arrested and police also seized $10,685 and a 1999 Oldsmobile, said Morgan.

Having a drug dog along on a raid makes it more effective because police can use the animal to sniff out drugs in places they might not otherwise look, he said.

Before Sabrina joined the task force, its members had to rely on other police agencies to supply dogs, which wasn't always convenient, said Johnson.

Sabrina's $5,000 price tag was paid with money seized in drug raids, he said.

"The dealers bought the dog for us," said Johnson.

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