SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (KFVS) - The war on drugs in the Heartland has a new weapon. But this one comes on four legs.
Recently the Marion Police Department received a green light to add another K-9 Team to its force. The cost is more than $13,000. Grants and drug seizer dollars will pick up that tab.
"Drugs in the United States are increasing, the drug abuse problem in this area as well and just going to help us when the war, at least try to win the war on the fight against drugs," Assistant Police Chief Daniel Byrne said.
Byrne says the dog will also be used for tracking suspects and officer protection. This will be the second K-9 team in the department. Byrne says the goal is three.
Meanwhile the Mount Vernon Police Department recently replaced its third crime fighting K-9 Team. For the officer who filled the spot it's a dream come true.
Mount Vernon Police Officer Nicholas Gaines praises his partner Stryker. Stryker is the newest four legged addition to the department.
"My dog is a 20-month-old Belgian Malinois," Gaines said.
But for Gaines, this day is years in the making. When he was just a teen, Gaines watched a K-9 demonstration in his hometown.
"I got to see the dog do several different things there and that just really sparked my interest," Gaines said.
Six years ago, Gaines joined the Mount Vernon Police Department. For the last five, he's volunteered his own time to help train other police dogs.
"Train(ed) our three dogs we had at the time, as well as, state police dogs as well as state police dogs and surrounding jurisdiction's dogs," Gaines explained.
Then a few months ago, the department's third dog Ewan retired. It opened the door to a dream job for Gaines.
Gaines says when on the street he uses Stryker as a locating tool, thanks to his strong sense of smell.
"We'll locate the odor of narcotics, we can locate people should they burglarize a building and hide inside.
It's a dream team that trains, works and plays together all in the name of protecting those they serve.
"Just go to work every day now and try to make something of it, try to do something good with it," Gaines said.
The partnership doesn't end Gaines and Stryker are off the clock. The two live together as well.