TWO women have been arrested and charged with drug offences thanks to the keen nose of Candy, the drug detection dog, in a weekend operation at Tamworth Correctional Centre.
State Emergency Unit Northern Region canine handler Ricky Gay said two arrests were made, following close to 60 searches by the dog unit, in partnership with Corrective Services staff.
On Saturday, a woman visiting an inmate was arrested after a search revealed she was carrying two capsules filled with white powder wrapped in tape.
Mr Gay said the woman admitted she was carrying the drugs after the dog “indicated” by sitting down next to her.
“She denied it for a while and then she admitted it,” Mr Gay said.
“The woman believed the drug wouldn’t be detected because it was wrapped up.”
Another woman from Boggabilla was arrested after a positive result from Candy found an amount of cannabis in a children’s bag.
The two women were both charged with possessing a prohibited drug and bringing or introducing a drug into a detention facility.
Tamworth Correctional Centre head of security Michael Page said the two arrests were an indicator of the success of the operation.
“Every time we stop drugs getting into our facility, it’s a success,” Mr Page said.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy in relation to drugs at Corrective Services, and we run these operations as a deterrent.”
He said offenders were handed over to police to be dealt with and they faced jail time and prison bans if caught.
“They risk being banned from all NSW correctional facilities for up to two years if they get caught.”
Mr Page said further operations were planned in coming months with the assistance of the drug dogs.
Three-year-old springer spaniel Candy has been in training with the unit since she was nine months old and Mr Gay said she’s sniffed out hundreds of illegal substances on inmates, visitors and in prison areas.
Working with her handler performing vehicle, personal and area searches, her handler knows if she sits down and looks at him, Candy’s nose has detected something.
“She’ll sit down next to the person and look at them and look at me.”
A special collar means it’s time to go to work, and Mr Gay sees to it she is always rewarded with her favourite game of tug-of-war with a toy after her hours of duty.
“It’s all a game for her,” he said.
“She’s happy and excited when she gets to work, it means she gets her toy.”
Mr Gay said in his 13 years as a dog handler, he had just about seen every method people had tried to get drugs into detention centres.
“I’ve seen it all. They wrap it in balloons to mask the smell; bring it in on their children,” he said.
But Mr Gay said a good drug dog could detect even bags and clothes that had come into contact from drugs – even months previously.
“The smell still permeates the material. I’ve had visitors surprised, saying ‘I haven’t had anything in there for a month'.
“But the residual smell is still there.”