Arny truly takes a 'bite out of crime'
By MICHELLE GANASSI
Daily American Staff Writer
9:54 PM EDT, April 2, 2011
Since joining the force six years ago, Somerset Borough’s four-legged officer has proved he is not your average “K-9.”
This year alone Arny has been used in 10 building searches, four vehicle searches, one tracking and one aggression to bring down someone resisting arrest.
“It’s not too difficult to point to the numerous times he has successfully tracked offenders, found drugs in cars and structures, protected his fellow officers or completed apprehensions that spared other officers from exposure to harm,” said Chief Randy Cox. “Those things have been incredibly valuable and have helped to make us a more effective organization. However, to me, the impact is even more greatly felt in areas where you can’t point to statistics to prove the point.”
When he joined, Arny was 56 pounds. Now he weighs in at 80 pounds, said handler Brian Harbart. While the war on drugs may never be won, Harbart said, Arny helps curb drugs in Somerset Borough.
“You’ll never get ahead on the war on drugs,” he said. “Not just this community, everywhere.”
In 2005 area businessman Mark Miller attended the annual National Night Out and was impressed by a K-9 demonstration. So he approached Cox and the mayor about why the borough did not have a police dog. A few days later Miller told the borough that he had the money lined up.
“In that short amount of time, Mark had approached Somerset Hospital, Somerset Health Services and the Twin Lakes Center and they had agreed to share the funding costs and that is how Arny ended up coming to Somerset,” he said.
Over the years Harbart has also trained Arny to come into the front seat of the police car and watch him. They train several times a month with other K-9 units from other counties. The other handlers gave Harbart a hard time once when he told them a story about recovering a corncob pipe.
“We get that all the time,” he said.
Harbart has a collection of paraphernalia items he and Arny have recovered over the years. One time on a traffic stop near the turnpike interchange Harbart brought Arny out of the vehicle and made a lap around the car. Arny gave Harbart the indication that there may be drugs in the vehicle and police recovered homemade marijuana plants, a bag of cocaine and 54 needles. Arny has also helped police find white heroin and brown heroin. Once he found black tar heroin.
“It’s very seldom seen in this area,” Harbart said.
Typically when Arny does a search something is recovered, whether it is paraphernalia or drugs.
“We always find something,” he said.
Arny is also a deterrent. Harbart started leaving the window open with a mesh cage over the window. When people are fighting Arny’s boisterous bark has a calming effect on the situation.
“They stop fighting pretty quickly,” he said.
His bark did require police to have to install a second speaker for Harbart to hear other officers and country control.
“When that mic keys up or the lights and sirens are going he just goes nuts,” he said. “He’s the loudest member of the department.”
Cox said the K-9 team is an asset the community can take pride in.
“Except for a few, occasional spikes here and there, our burglaries are down,” he said. “When Arny shows up on the scene of a fight or disturbance and makes his presence known, people cease their fighting or disorderly behavior; when Arny shows up prepared to do a drug search, people simply tell the officers where the drugs are; subjects who are known for violent behavior against officers simply submit when they hear or see Arny is there.”
Arny has been used to bring down an assailant eight times in the past six years.
“That shows we’re not out there just being aggressive with the dog,” Harbart said.
But when he is instructed to attack there is no denying Arny leaves an impression, literally and figuratively, after he has to chase a perpetrator. Harbart said after they take someone into custody they are all singing the same tune: “I will never, ever, ever, fight you again.”
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