TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – As Tippecanoe County sees a dramatic increase in the number of serious violent felons with guns and drugs, News 18 looks into ways law enforcement is combating the problem.
The rise in crime has inspired a call for K-9s.
There are a lot of things people may not know about law enforcement’s four-legged friends. For example, some police dogs are trained to smell for drugs, others for explosives. But every police dog knows how to track people running from the cops and those who are lost, as well as weapons, evidence and other stolen items.
At the drop of a tennis ball, West Lafayette K-9 Remco can go from cute and cuddly to tough and terrifying.
“He gonna tear your butt up,” said Cero Russell when News 18 asked him what he thought about a recent K-9 pursuit.
A serious violent felon ran from police during a traffic stop one night while News 18 was riding along.
“Police Department K-9!” shouted West Lafayette K-9 Officer Adam Miller. “If you’re in the woods, come out now. My dog will bite you. He will bite you!”
Russell has been in trouble with the law multiple times before. He said if a K-9 was sent after him, he would surrender immediately.
“Why run? I can’t out run him, truthfully, I can’t,” said Russell.
That’s what Miller said usually happens when he sends out his warning. But the suspect Remco was searching for the night we followed along was willing to take his chances.
“Can you believe the guy didn’t come out?” News 18 Kayla Sullivan asked.
“Yeah, I can believe that because I’ve seen that,” said Russell. “I watch ‘Cops.'”
Just like in the popular ’90s TV show, police got the suspect.
“He’s a fool,” said Russell. “They know he’s in there, so they’re going to get him eventually anyway.”
Miller said he tracked a long way, approximately 500 yards.
“Right to the guy,” he said proudly.
It never ceases to amaze Miller.
“I’ve seen it hundreds of thousands of times,” said Miller. “But every time he does it, it is just euphoria. I mean, I’ve got chills on my back talking about it.”
So, how did Remco do it?
“He senses the fear, the smell, the ground disturbance — which if you run across grass, or whatever, it’s going to kick up scent,” said Miller.
It’s a priceless partnership.
“How often would you say he saves your life?” News 18 asked Miller.
“Every time I use him,” he said. “I mean, there’s just no question about it — like tonight, I mean we had no idea what that guy was, where he was, where he was hiding.”
It’s not just about keeping officers safe.
“We don’t know what that guy was going to do,” said Miller. “He already made the violent tendency to run, there’s all these apartments here. He may have went into one of them; it’s late, we don’t know.”
But what police do know is since having K-9s, departments are more efficient and the public is safer.
That’s why Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Patrick Harrington has purchased 11 police dogs since 2007.
“We bought with non-taxpayer money, usually forfeiture money from drug dealers,” said Harrington.
Why wouldn’t a prosecutor love K-9s? It makes charging criminals a lot easier.
While News 18 followed Remco, we watched as he sat by a car, alerting Miller to search for drugs inside.
“If we [police K-9s] smell drugs, we can get a search warrant. And generally speaking, the person selling drugs usually has a weapon,” said Harrington.
That weapon isn’t typically legal. In fact, the number of serious violent felons caught with guns in Tippecanoe County has increased 400 percent within the last two years.
“I don’t for a second think there aren’t more individuals in our community that have these violent convictions and they have weapons,” said Harrington.
That’s why he would like to see more duos like Miller and Remco.
Russell said the public should too.
“I think it’s good to have a dog that can do that,” said Russell. “Cause Lafayette is getting kind of bad to be honest, and yeah, I agree with it 100 percent.”
Watch Wednesday night on News 18 at Six for Part 2 of A Call for K-9s. News 18 looks into why Tippecanoe County Sheriff Barry Richard discontinued the Tippecanoe County K-9 unit. Some departments say his decision is inconveniencing K-9 units in the area.