A K9 unit will soon be part of the Surfside Beach Police Department, a move town officials hope will help combat an increase in drug related crimes in the town.
Town Council members unanimously approved reinstating the addition Tuesday night.
Drug related arrests have increased 26 percent in the past year, said Capt. Aaron Miller.
“Based on our statistics we’ve seen an increase in narcotics based offenses and arrests,” Miller said. “There’s a close relationship between narcotics use and crimes committed as a way to support an addiction. You usually see an increase in the rates of other crimes like thefts when narcotics arrests increase.”
Matthew Hoffer, who was recently hired by the department, owns a retired U.S. Customs German Shepherd named Dolfy. The dog is 7 years old and in good health.
There is little to no cost expected for taxpayers.
“It’s very negligible in a situation like this,” Miller said. “The dog is trained, the handler is trained.”
The cost to the town is veterinary bills and a reimbursement for food – an estimated $1,500 per year. But, Miller said that will be paid for with the narcotics seized forfeiture funds not taxpayer dollars.
“It’s a rare situation where it’s a win-win all around.”
Horry County police and the Department of Public Safety in North Myrtle Beach have offered to recertify both Dolfy and Hoffer at no cost to the town. North Myrtle Beach also offered to donate a kennel unit for a patrol car that is no longer in use, Miller said.
Surfside Beach had a K9 unit previously, but donated the dog to 15th Judicial Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit.
“We had some changing in personnel and we didn’t have a good match to reassign the dog to,” Miller said. “The DEU was new and didn’t have access to a dog and they didn’t have the funding to purchase and train a dog.”
If the town approves the K9 unit and later decides the Surfside Beach no longer needs a drug dog, Miller said the town won’t have to worry about finding a new home for the dog since Hoffer will retain ownership.
Dolfy will continue living with Hoffer and will not be housed permanently at the police department.
Councilwoman Ann Dodge was the only commenter on the proposal saying she’s a “sucker for German Shepherds,’ and the dog makes “an excellent addition to our police department.”