K9 units make Houston streets safer

Dogs on force actually help catch extra 50 criminals a month compared to an officer

HOUSTON - K9 units are making our streets safer. In Houston, dogs on the force actually help catch an extra 50 criminals a month compared to just an officer alone.

Natan is a K9 officer with the Houston Police Department. He and his enhanced sniffer have helped seize more than $1,000,000 in assets from drug dealers. He has also assisted in over 150 arrests.

"He is a sweetheart who loves to work," said Natan's partner, Sgt. Stuart Red of the Houston Police Department. "There is nothing in life he would love to do more than go out and find someone that's hiding from the police and help us arrest them."

Dogs have a sense of smell that is thousands of times stronger than humans.

"When they go to search for a person, they are looking for smell, and we are searching with our eyes," explained Sgt. Red. "We could go up to a closed door and the dog can smell the door and he will be able to tell me if there is somebody on the side of the door without opening a door, making it a lot safer for us."

Getting a highly trained dog like Natan on a police force is not cheap. It could cost $10,000 or upwards of $15,000.

That is where 'K9s4COPs' comes in. This non-profit organization helps pay for the training to put these dogs into action taking down criminals and saving lives.

Executive Director Liz Lara-Carreno became involved with K9s4COPs as a project, but once she got to know the dogs, the officers and their families, she knew she was where she needed to be.

"I think it was the first time a wife of an officer said, 'My husband came home tonight because of his dog, the dog that you gave to him,' then after that there was no turning back. I knew that we were doing the right thing," she said.

K9s4COPs began in March 2011. Since then, they have grown quickly. Today their influence stretches across the country. Campus police are even submitting applications for a K9 in their school.

Lara-Carreno says the foundation is helping many K9 units from either going away or helping to provide additional K9s for police departments. She adds they are helping launch new K9 units in many districts.

The foundation is turning to our community to continue their efforts in keeping our neighborhoods safe by supporting our men and women in blue with trained dogs. They are holding a fundraiser Tuesday, October 22, in Houston called Unleashed 2013.

"When you are in trouble, you call a police officer. When the police officer is in trouble, they call a K9. That is what your money does," said Lara-Carreno, "It buys a K9 and supports the law enforcement agencies, and it keeps our communities safe every day."

"I spend more time with Natan than I do with my family," jokes Sgt. Red. "He is with me at work, and he is with me at home. We are truly partners, and I rely on him and he relies on me."

Natan is getting ready to retire, but thanks to K9s4COPs, two more dogs are coming into the Houston Police Department right behind him.

If you would like to attend Unleashed 2013, it is from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Hughes Hanger on 2811 Washington Ave. in Houston.

If you are unable to attend, you can go to their website and learn more on how you can help.

In the New Year, K9s4COPs will have a float bearing their name in the Tournament of Rose Parade 125 Anniversary, Dreams Come True. Their theme will be Working Together for Safer Communities.  A rendering of their float can be found on their website.

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