Town of Bath police chief James Minton said the town's new K-9 team had a busy, successful first week. The team consists of Corporal Craig Pearrell and Butch, the German Shepherd K-9 dog.
"Officer Butch" officially joined the police department in a ceremony on March 6 when Mayor Susan Webster presented him with a badge that is worn on the dog's collar.
During his first week on
duty, the K-9 Unit assisted
with the investigation of six vehicles stopped for traffic violations. In five of the cases, the K-9 team found illegal substances during a vehicle search, resulting in citations and some arrests.
"I want to make it clear that we are not randomly stopping and searching vehicles. The only time the K-9 team is called in during a traffic stop is if the officer suspects something else is going on," Minton said.
Pearrell explained that open car windows allow wind and air from heaters and air conditioners to circulate, making it difficult for Butch to locate drugs if present.
"We ask the driver to roll up all windows. Then we walk the dog around the vehicle. If illegal substances are present, the dog will sniff them out and go right to the spot," Pearrell said.
Traffic stops, citations and arrests for possession of illegal substances took place on Tuesday, March 6 on Mercer and Harrison streets, and Friday, March 9 on Independence and Mercer streets and the corner of North Washington and Fairfax streets.
A female suspect stopped by Officer Richard Haynes at North Washington and Fairfax streets was arrested and charged with DUI and obstructing an officer. A K-9 vehicle search found a suspected illegal substance. Other charges are pending the outcome of tests on the substance.
Assisting other agencies
During their first week as a team, Corporal Pearrell and Butch assisted other police agencies.
On March 6, state police asked for help in searching for a lost child on Mountain Run Road. The K-9 Unit responded, but the child was found before the K-9 team arrived.
On March 10, the unit was asked to conduct a vehicle search by a sheriff's deputy. The search turned up an illegal substance.
The Morgan County Sheriff's Department has their own K-9 Unit, but there are times when the team is either not working or is busy at another location. Town and county police plan to assist each other with K-9 teams when necessary.
The K-9 team is conducting foot patrols on town streets and in the Berkeley Springs State Park.
"People who see the K-9 team patrolling on foot have
no reason to be alarmed. The dog is on a lease and under tight control. When you see Craig and Butch, just remember that they are working. No one should try to pet the dog," Minton said.
When asked how he and Butch are getting along, Pearrell had a one word answer: "Great!"