NAUGATUCK, Conn. (WTNH) — There’s a new “Judge” in the fight against the opioid crisis in Naugatuck: the town’s new police K-9.
On Friday, Judge and his handler, Officer Jake Pinho, completed state police training for specialized drug detection.
Judge graduated as the top police dog in the state and now his skills will be put to use on the streets of Naugatuck, becoming part of the plan to snuff out opiates and drugs at crime scenes.
“He’ll be able to give us probable cause to search vehicles, develop search warrants, cases of that nature,” said Officer Pinho. “It’s a huge asset to our department because their scent capabilities are so strong that we, as humans, cannot compare to what they’re able to do.”
The opioid crisis has hit Naugatuck hard. Last year, Naugatuck police reported 15 deadly overdoses — that’s up three from the year before.
Officer Pinho said he has seen the dangers of drugs while on patrol.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to use Narcan and save someone’s life,” he said.
The Valley Community Foundation reports the crisis has also hit the overall Naugatuck Valley region.
“One-third of Valley residents know someone who has either misused heroin or an opiate,” said Valerie Knight-Digangi, of the foundation.
Naugatuck’s Deputy Police Chief told News 8 combating this crisis is a top priority, and Judge will now play a key role in that.
“We recognize the impact this has had on the community, not just from a criminal justice standpoint,” said Deputy Chief Colin McAllister.
According to The Valley Community Foundation, between 2015 and 2018, the rate of opioid-related deaths in the Naugatuck Valley was 28.8 per 100,000 residents. That’s above the statewide average of 22.8.
Those statistics are why the foundation approved of Naugatuck’s effort to enlist their top dog in this battle.