Cabaero: Sniffer dogs

Beyond 30

THE tricks drug traders employ to escape detection by the police can range from the complex to the simple.

Complicated measures can be using boats and the high seas to transport drugs and resorting to global positioning technology to monitor the location of their goods. An example of a simple way to escape detection is the use of garlic to mask the smell of shabu.

This simple way was found out after local police got P190 million worth of shabu from a raid on a house in Barangay Inayawan, Cebu City, and from a follow-up operation in Consolacion town, both last Sunday, March 3.

Cebu City Police Office Chief Royina Garma said pieces of garlic placed inside garbage bags on top of the drugs were meant to distract K9 units of the police from detecting the shabu. The report on the seizure did not state how, in the end, the shabu haul was discovered.

The person arrested in the Barangay Inayawan raid then squealed on the Consolacion dealer, resulting in a total haul of P190,400,000 worth of the illegal drug. This leads to the question if sniffer dogs of the police can detect drugs through a sealed package and in the presence of a strong smell, in this case the smell of garlic.

Police Brigadier General Debold Sinas, according to a SunStar report, said his office will ask the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency 7 to clarify if garlic could indeed fool the K9.

The article on “Canine substance detection” on by the Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence and Security said sniffer dogs are trained to detect the smell of illegal substances because they have an acute sense of smell that can penetrate suitcases, sealed packages and many hiding places inaccessible to other detection methods. A dog’s olfactory system is around 40 times more sensitive than that of a human, it added.

These trained dogs can also distinguish individual odors when other strong smells are also present. “They can be trained to detect the odors of heroin, marijuana and cocaine hidden in suitcases even in the presence of strong smelling perfumes,” the report said, as it noted how drug traffickers are constantly finding ways to escape discovery by sniffer or detection dogs.

The discovery of this new practice of drug traders to use garlic to mask the smell of shabu poses yet another challenge in the campaign against illegal drugs. It shows how enforcement agencies have to be one step ahead of these illegal drugs traders who can be highly innovative and always seeking new ways to continue with the trade.

As to the sniffer dogs, this new practice resurrects the question the police had to grapple with in 2018 when it spent P26 million to purchase bomb-sniffing dogs. Was spending that amount worth it? A senator at that time called for the purchase of body-worn cameras to record law enforcers’ conduct in anti-illegal drugs operations and to check against abuses. The police bought the dogs instead.


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