Funding helps Griffith police add their first-ever K9 officer
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent August 8, 2012 11:26PM
Updated: September 10, 2012 1:17PM
GRIFFITH — The Griffith Police Department will welcome its first-ever K9 officer to its ranks by late fall largely in part because of a local restaurant’s fund-raising efforts.
Jedi’s Garden owner Gus Parianos presented a $10,000 check to the Town Council Tuesday night toward the purchase of the new K9, Public Safety Commissioner Jim Marker said. The Public Safety Board on Monday night chose Griffith Police Officer Robert Gutierrez as its handler and was expected to finalize the appointment Thursday.
“We had five outstanding candidates for the position,” Marker said. “(The board is) really proud of those who applied and who lobbied for the K9.”
The Police Department is adding the K9 to combat a an increasing drug problem, said Councilman Rick Ryfa, R-3rd. Ryfa said Griffith is seeing about the same increase as other towns in Lake County, and it wants to be proactive in combating it before it gets worse.
The town has thus far been working with Highland and Munster, which both have K9s, during patrols, and when those officers are available to help, it works wonders.
“We can’t continue to wait a half-hour for one of the other K9s to get here,” Ryfa said. “If there are three dogs available, we can potentially schedule them so that each town will have a K9 available 24/7.”
Marker said Griffith officers approached the former Police Commission about purchasing a K9 in February and again presented the proposal when the Public Safety Board was formed in April.
“We’re tired of having to lean on other department’s resources, and we’re looking forward to sharing our new officer with them,” Marker said. “We’re also sending a message: If you’re traveling down Cline Avenue with the intent to transport or sell drugs, you need to rethink that, because you’re now on notice.”
Marker added the community has been extremely supportive and generous with the idea.
Costs for a K9 officer range between $12,000 to $17,000 to purchase the dog and train the officer with it, Marker said. Ancillary costs, meanwhile, include the dog’s bullet-proof vest, supplies and veterinary bills.