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Police dog sections to be merged

Police dog sections to be merged

Published at 7:03am 29th October 2015. (Updated at 2:52pm 29th October 2015)

North Yorkshire Police, Cleveland Police and Durham Constabulary have announced plans to merge their dog sections from next summer.

Force chiefs are hoping that a single unit will reduce overall costs by more than £3 million over the next five years.

They also say it will increase police coverage in rural areas and enable them to retain a "substantial" 24-hour dog unit.

The Cleveland and Durham forces already operate a shared unit which was set up earlier this year.

Police dogs carry out a wide range of duties, including tracking people, chasing criminals, finding explosives, cash, weapons or drugs, 'passive' drug identification, keeping public order and supporting firearms officers.

Many of those tasks require highly specialised training, but currently each force only has a limited number of dogs with the necessary skills.

Dogs and their handlers from the three forces will all be trained in the same way and will adopt the same tactical approaches.

This will give each force access to more dogs per shift, as well as greater access to specialist dogs to cover particular types of operations.

Cleveland Police and Durham Constabulary set up a shared dog unit earlier this year.

In North Yorkshire, dogs live with their handlers in different locations across the county.

To improve support for them, operational bases will be set up in Harrogate, York, Northallerton/Thirsk and the East Coast/Ryedale.

Together with bases in Durham and Cleveland, it will mean that more dogs are available in the north of the county, covering some of the most remote rural areas and urban 'hot spots' more effectively.

The county will also have better access to specialist dogs, including passive drugs dogs, which are typically used in town and city centres to identify people carrying drugs.

North Yorkshire Police currently buys in this service from a private company.

The decision to merge the dog sections was made as part of the Evolve Programme, which is looking at how police can improve services and save money by collaborating across organisational and geographical borders.

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said: "Police dogs and their handlers provide a really valuable service, but it is expensive and we need to save money. This plan is a good one for North Yorkshire - it will save us £172,000 a year, and at the same time, it will increase the number of dogs available to our county.

"Police dogs can make a big impact both in our urban areas and in rural communities. The fact that we will have more dogs available, working across borders out of more operational bases, should make it easier for dogs to be deployed wherever they are needed."

Dave Jones, Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, added: "An integrated dogs section is simply common sense. Criminals don't recognise borders, and we need to take that into account in the way we structure our specialist services.

"This plan will give us more officers and dogs available for deployment. Managing specialist services can be difficult if you have limited resources and there are peaks in demand, but this integrated service increases our options, so we can provide the right service at the right time."