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Ga. police drug unit to target highways

7 habits of unsuccessful interdiction officers

By Kathy Jefcoats
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

CLAYTON, Ga. — After almost 20 years without one, the Clayton County Police Department announced Tuesday the formation of a drug interdiction unit to target major thoroughfares.

The announcement by Chief Jeff Turner comes on the heels of several seizures of large shipments of cocaine coming through a Clayton transport company. Police estimated the seizures as having a street value of more than $30 million.

"We're going after criminals who travel our highways," Turner said. "This is another measure to remove drugs from Clayton County. You're not going to bring drugs through Clayton County or use or store drugs here."

The 12-officer, specialized unit is co-commanded by Lt. Brian Danekes and Sgt. Anthony Thuman and is augmented by six K-9 dogs trained in drug detection. Turner said officers will be on patrol 24 hours a day, focusing on the major thoroughfares through Clayton, which include interstates 75, 675, 85 and 285, and U.S. 19/41, also known as Tara Boulevard.

Turner, who was appointed chief last year, said the formation of the unit is part of his overall plan to combat crime in Clayton County.

"We had a unit like this a long time ago, late 80s or early 90s," he said. "But there is a greater need to have this unit now."

The unit's officers are specially trained in drug interdiction but will use the K-9 dogs during the majority of traffic stops, Thuman said. Legally, police officers must have probable cause to make a traffic stop, but they can then bring out a K-9 unit based solely on a driver's suspicious behavior, he said.

"The courts have upheld the free air sniff," Thuman said. "The dogs have no contact with drivers at all but are walked around the car to sniff the exterior. If the dog alerts, the handler proceeds from there."

Copyright 2008 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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