Lackawanna County has seen a tripling in drug overdose deaths since the 1990s, and northeastern Pennsylvania is a prime market for heroin sales because of its proximity to New York City and Philadelphia. LEOs in the county have been doing their best to counter this trend with a dedicated Lackawanna County Drug Task Force that works closely with the Scranton Police Department.
Despite its high number of cases, the task force lacked a dedicated drug dog and had to borrow ones from other agencies. This changed in May 2015 when a 19-month old Labrador retriever named Riggs joined the office and became the new partner of Detective Vincent Butkiewicz.
Btukiewicz had suggested the new acquisition to District Attorney Andy Jarbola who concurred that the time had come for the task force to have its own K-9 officer. The cost of the dog was covered from a drug forfeiture fund.
The new partners have been training every day for weeks and have worked about 15 drug busts as of early July 2015. Riggs helped detectives find 53 bags of heroin in an apartment in Scranton, and the officers charged Wayne Myers with several drug crimes.
In the same week, detectives searched a car in Scranton that was driven by a Philadelphia man. Riggs located 23 grams of crack and 84 bags of heroin resulting in charges against Ronald Jacquet.
To train the dog, Butkiewicz sets up hidden narcotics in the DA’s Office for him to find. So far, Riggs has found every target, and after training, the two play fetch as part of their bonding process. The new officer is well liked and is likely to make a substantial dent in drug sales in Lackawanna County.
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