A group of children at the public library in St. Ansgar watched and listened in fascination as Mitchell County Deputy Jackson Steinberg introduced them to his K-9 partner, Rev, and explained what he can do.
Steinberg, who was giving a program this week as part of the library’s summer reading program, said the purebred German shepherd’s main purpose is to “take drugs off the street.”
Rev’s sense of smell is so powerful that he can detect the slightest odor of narcotics, according to Steinberg.
Rev can also use track down a missing person, such as a lost child, in as little as 10 minutes, he said.
Dogs trained for police work “are a lot more efficient than we are,” Steinberg said.
Over the past 20 years, more and more law enforcement agencies in North Iowa have been establishing K-9 units.
Departments that don’t have a K-9 unit call on those that do for assistance when needed.
“Having a K-9 to confirm the presence of narcotics is vital as it removes time and manpower it would take in a search,” said Britt Police Chief Mark Anderson.
The department has had its own K-9, Kovu, for the past six months. His handler is Sgt. Tyler Harmon.
Kovu has already been used 31 times in drug searches.
In 45 percent of those calls, officers recovered methamphetamine, according to statistics kept by the department.
Marijuana was found in 36 percent of the calls, while the remaining 19 percent were cases where Kovu did not indicate the presence of narcotics.
Worth County Sheriff Dan Fank was the K-9 handler for the department when he was still a deputy.
The sheriff’s office got its first K-9 in 2002. Fank said at that time only a few North Iowa law enforcement agencies had dogs.
However, many other area departments now have K-9 units of their own, he said.
Those agencies include the Hancock and Winnebago County sheriff’s offices and the Clear Lake, Forest City and and Charles City police departments.
Worth County used to have two dogs, one of which specialized in bomb detection.
However, in 2017-2018 both of them retired.
The sheriff’s office recently bought a new K-9 named Titan. His handler will be Chief Deputy Jesse Luther.
Titan is expected to begin work in August.
Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley said his department hasn’t had a K-9 unit in some time.
“Currently there isn’t room in our annual operations budget,” he said.