Private donors step up to fund a second drug-sniffing dog to cut down on heroin in Routt County
Steamboat Springs — It looks like Boomer, the Routt County Sheriff’s Department’s drug-sniffing K-9 officer, will have a new crime-stopping counterpart after all.
On Monday, the Routt County Board of Commissioners cleared Sheriff Garrett Wiggins to accept the generosity of a local couple, who stepped forward after a second dog was left out of the 2017 budget and offered to pay for the new dog and its training.
“I’ve got one family that has property here and wants to remain anonymous but wants to fund the canine program this year,” Wiggins said. “We told them, it’s more than what you think — in excess of $45,000. I’m humbled when folks come and make offers like that.”
The couple was unconcerned with the amount, the sheriff said.
When the sheriff presented his draft 2017 public safety budget to the Board of Commissioners in late September, a second K9 unit was high on his list to support ongoing efforts to help reduce the supply of heroin coming into Northwest Colorado, and with it, reduce overdose deaths. The presence of a second dog would increase the number of hours every week that one or the other is on duty with his handler, Wiggins said.
But he also told county commissioners that requests for an additional patrol deputy and another criminal investigator were higher priorities than another drug-sniffing dog. As it turned out, none of those requests made the cut.
The commissioners, preparing this year to commit $6.1 million toward the future construction of a new shared law enforcement facility for the sheriff’s office and the Steamboat Springs Police Department, didn’t fund a second K-9, nor did they fund the sheriff’s request for new employees in the 2017 budget.
Deputy Ed Hendricks, who is Boomer’s handler, confirmed Monday that his partner has been highly effective. Boomer has been deployed 65 times since he came to work at the Sheriff’s Office in April 2015. More than 25 of those deployments, mostly traffic stops, resulted in arrests for possession on illegal drugs.
Boomer’s most recent heroin bust came on Oct. 5.
“There are three people serving time in prison right now,” for distribution of drugs, as a result of Boomer sniffing out the illegal drugs in their possession, Hendricks said.
There have been 11 other cases when suspects who were close to fleeing from law enforcement officers gave up after Boomer made his displeasure plain with loud barking.
The Board of Commissioners, after weighing the fact that they’d be taking on the annual cost of funding operations for a second dog ($9,200 for Boomer this year), and after eight years service, funding the replacement and training of two dogs, rather than one, cleared the sheriff to accept the anonymous donation.
“If, for $9,000 a year, we can make a difference in overdose deaths, it’s worthwhile,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said.
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With abnormally low snow levels, most of the snow skiers and snowboarders will encounter Saturday during Steamboat Resort’s Opening Day will be manufactured.