By Sonya Campbell

Harker Heights Herald

Belton police are a step closer to creating a K-9 program after the City Council recently gave its consent for the department to submit a grant application to the Texas Governor's Office Criminal Justice Division to fund the effort.

The CJD currently is accepting applications for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Formula Grant Program for 2012, which requires no match. The deadline to apply is Feb. 28.

Such grants are used for projects that reduce crime and improve the criminal justice system.

Although the BPD applied for a grant last year and scored second in the grant-review process, the first-place project required all of the funding.

If the police department is awarded a grant this time, its proposed budget would include the purchase of a fully trained police dog and training for the handler, $15,000; kennels, $2,500; K-9 training aids, $2,500; K-9 equipment for vehicle, $2,500; and off-duty care salary for the handler, $4,000. The total would be $26,500.

The police department previously planned to buy a K-9 with federal funding it received but was unable to do so because of an issue with the final approved language in the congressional record.

"The use of a K-9 can be a valuable tool in the detection of narcotics as well as locating fugitives that flee an area. We have utilized K-9 units in the past from Temple, Nolanville and Harker Heights. We have used them successfully in locating narcotics and tracking people on foot like lost or missing persons," said Sgt. Larry Berg, BPD spokesman.

The department already has selected a candidate for K-9 school in the event it is able to implement the program: investigator Richard Murray.

Berg said the department initially made a list of volunteers.

"It is important the person wants to work with a canine and can care for the canine during off-duty hours," he said.

The department then conducted interviews through a board made up of some of its own personnel, as well as K-9 handlers from other agencies. If established, the new program would offer many benefits, Berg said.

"The benefit to the city is increased safety in the community, increased narcotics detection and increased capture of suspects who flee on foot, and tracking lost and missing persons, like Alzheimer's patients," he said. "K-9 units are useful in deterring conflict also. Many suspects will surrender to a barking dog where they may try to remain hidden or attempt to fight an officer."

He also noted another advantage - education. "Children love to listen to a policeman who is working with a K-9," Berg said.

Contact Sonya Campbell at or (254) 501-7585.

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