Pubdate: Sun, 11 Jan 2015
Source: Illawarra Mercury (Australia)
Copyright: 2015 Illawarra Newspapers
Author: Joshua Butler


Wollongong police have defended the use of drug detection dogs,
despite data showing up to 61 per cent of searches in the Illawarra
returning no result.

Data provided by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge showed there were 156
searches conducted in Wollongong after a drug dog indication in 2013,
but drugs were found in only 60 of those searches - what Mr Shoebridge
calls a "false positive" rate of 61 per cent.

There were 69 searches in the Lake Illawarra area in 2013 with drugs
found in 41 cases, while 10 drug searches in the Shoalhaven turned up
four positives.

Mr Shoebridge's office said the data was provided from a question on
notice he had placed before the NSW Parliament.

Illawarra numbers are below the state average of 64 per cent "false
positives" with drugs found in just 6415 of 17,746 searches in 2013;
and far below the 80 per cent "false positive" rate from the Transport
Command, which found drugs in just 366 of 1876 searches.

Despite the numbers, a spokesperson for the NSW Police Dog Unit
defended the use of drug dogs.

"Dogs are able to assist police to locate prohibited drugs being
carried by a person, secreted in a house, vehicle, building and open
spaces," the spokesperson said.

"Dogs are effective at locating odour and ... is one of many
indicators [police] use to decide if a search is to be conducted."

Dogs can reportedly detect residual drug traces on a person's clothes
or body long after the drug has been consumed or disposed of.

Superintendent Kyle Stewart, Commander of Wollongong Local Area
Command, said drug detection dogs helped combat Illawarra drug crime.

"We use dogs at specific events where prohibited drugs are known to be
used and supplied," he said.

"We see the use of drug detection dogs as an important strategy. Drug
dog operations around licensed premises are another way to increase
public safety and reduce anti-social behaviour."
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