The Northwest Regional Police Department is asking the public for help in raising $60,000 to become one of the few Lancaster County police departments with a K-9 unit.
“It would be a huge benefit to have a K-9 unit and handler,” said Mark Mayberry, chief of the department, which serves Mount Joy and West Donegal townships.
Mayberry acknowledged it’s a costly project, but said the ability to detect illegal drugs, find missing persons, track a suspect and relate to the community better would make it worth it.
Officer Tyler Seidel was chosen as the handler, something Seidel said he’s wanted to do since he started at the department in 2013.
If the department successfully starts the unit, they will join at least five other departments in Lancaster County that have one, according to the Lancaster County district attorney’s office.
About $15,000 of the $60,000 the Northwest Regional police force needs to start the unit will go toward paying for the dog and training, according to Seidel.
The rest of the cost includes a new K-9 police vehicle, a ballistic vest for the dog, a kennel and other gear, he said.
K-9s are not cheap, and paying for one through donations is not uncommon in Lancaster County, according to Brett Hambright, spokesman for the district attorney’s office.
“That is not always an easy sum to have the taxpayer foot the bill for,” Hambright said.
“From a law-enforcement perspective, we see the value in the K-9s, but not every citizen is an animal lover and would be thrilled about funding such a budget item.”
Seidel launched a GoFundMe fundraiser this week with a goal to raise $10,000. He plans to seek donations from businesses and hold benefits, such as one hosted by the Elizabethtown VFW on Aug. 19.
West Donegal Township supervisor and member of Northwest Regional’s police commission John Yoder said he has no doubt the community will be supportive.
The police commission, which includes two Mount Joy Township supervisors and three West Donegal Township supervisors, unanimously support the project, he said.
“If you look at most regional departments who have a K-9, it’s not part of the regular budget. They fund-raise,” Yoder said. “It’s not easy for a regional department to come up with that kind of money.”
The department hopes to have the K-9 unit in place by late spring 2018 after Seidel and the dog complete the required six-week training program. He would like to get either a German shepherd or German shepherd/ Belgian Malinois mix.
Lancaster city police’s K-9 unit consists of four officers and four dogs, according to Sgt. Michael Gerace.
Gerace said the dogs, with startup costs up to $15,000, were purchased through donations to the Lancaster City Police Foundation. Average annual maintenance, including training and veterinary costs, is about $9,000 for the entire unit, he said.
“Our canines are used for tracking, building searches, crowd control, article searches, narcotic and explosive detection,” Gerace said.
A K-9 will offer Northwest Regional police another tool to curb ongoing issues, Seidel said.
“K-9s are invaluable resources. Their noses are incredible as far as detection,” Seidel said. “In the grand scheme of things, the community is going to be safer.”