As Buffalo Grove officials discuss whether the K-9 program is worth continuing, the village’s unit is being credited for finding the body of a missing person.
It was Buffalo Grove K-9 Saxon who hit on the scent of Lake Villa resident Nick Steward, Deputy Police Chief Steve Husak said. The dog led his handler, Officer Danielle Baron, to his body in a densely wooded area three-quarters of a mile from where his vehicle was found last week in Vernon Hills.
Saxon was one of six police dogs deployed to the area as authorities looked for Steward, Husak said. The dogs and their handlers searched designated areas for four or five hours, he said.
“It just so happened that our dog, who is cadaver trained, was the one to hone in on the scent and find the body,” Husak said. It was, he said, “a very significant find for the dog.”
“It certainly kind of showed its mettle here,” he said.
Buffalo Grove has received a thank-you letter from Vernon Hills Police Chief Mark Fleischhauer and appreciation from the leader of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, Husak said.
The accomplishment demonstrates why Buffalo Grove should maintain the K-9 program, said Trustee Andy Stein, who opposes a staff recommendation to eliminate it as village officials look for ways to reduce spending.
“I’ve always said that our K-9 unit does more than sniff for drugs,” Stein said. I believe that this proves the value of our K-9 unit. I’ve heard people refer to our K-9 unit as a non-essential part of the village. I don’t believe that it’s non-essential. I believe that when it comes to health, safety and welfare, our K-9 fits in.”
Stein noted that the dog could also be used to find a missing child or elderly citizen with Alzheimer’s more quickly than if the village had to wait for another department’s dog to arrive.
“Just knowing that we have the dog here makes me feel better,” he said.
He suggested that a proposed cost-reducing modification to the program could be covered by revenue generated from impound fees from towed vehicles. Village officials are considering expanding an ordinance that lets Buffalo Grove tow vehicles driven by people arrested for driving under the influence and fine them $500. A revised ordinance would allow police to seize vehicles involved in arrests for other offenses, such as theft, drugs and driving without a license and generate an additional $115,000 each year.
“Two or three tows a month are all it will take to pay for the [K-9] program,” Stein said.
The Buffalo Grove K-9’s latest accomplishment won’t affect a recommendation from village staff to eliminate the program, Village Manager Dane Bragg said.
“The performance measures of the K-9 program are based on a comprehensive analysis of seizures, sniffs and arrests. Restructuring the program or its evaluation points based on one response would be a knee-jerk reaction,” he wrote in an email to Patch.
In addition to locating cadavers, Buffalo Grove’s police dog is trained to protect his handler, detect drugs and track the scents of missing people and items they’ve held.
It has been used in Buffalo Grove and assists other villages upon request, as it did during last week’s search for Steward.
“If this happened in Buffalo Grove, would we want people to come help us? Absolutely,” Husak said. The K-9 unit’s involvement in the task force “certainly does show some value in that,” he said.
Buffalo Grove adopted its K-9 program around 1997, Husak said. Saxon is the fourth dog used by the department.