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K9 Parcel Interdiction

With the sophistication of drug smuggling involving vehicles some dealers are using the various shipping companies to facilitate their trades. Those canine handlers who train but miss the opportunity to work with parcels and become involved in parcel interdictions are missing a great opportunity.

To be successful in parcel interdiction you have to train. There are many dynamics associated with this type of canine activity. If your canine is anything like mine he will probably enjoy playing with the boxes. For your training aids you need to make sure that you use boxes that aren’t contaminated with possible narcotic odors. There are several places that you can go to and get new boxes. Be sure to not cross contaminate the boxes with your target odor.

You need to find a location where you can control all the aspects of the training environment. You need to control the access, weather (pay attention to it anyway), air flow, and any other type of outside influence.   It’s important to expose the canines to the boxes. They have a tendency to want to play and pounce on them. Depending on what your local prosecutor tells you I find that the less boxes the better. With one target parcel I like to add two dummy boxes. This allows more separation from the target plus less chances of your canine wanting to play with all the boxes.

As with any type of narcotic training that we conduct it’s important that we train with various amounts of the target odors. Just as with large odors from vehicles, you will get that same type of responses from the parcels. When I conduct parcel trainings or actual parcel interdictions I use the entire area. I’ll detail the room that I am doing the parcel search in. Most of the times the canine will be off lead and run right to the target package.

The next step in your training is to get with the various shipping companies and identify yourself. Network with them and ask them if they would be interested in your canine services. Depending on which company you go to depends on what you can get into. Get with your local United States Postal Inspector. I’ve found them to be a great source of help. They are anxious to help out in anyway. When you make contact with a federal agency they usually require a copy of your canine’s recent training records to add to their file.

If you’re working any short term investigative cases involving narcotic investigations these networks can be excellent resources. Aside from your normal investigative process you can obtain information about parcels that have been shipped to certain addresses. With that information you can intercept suspicious packages. Use your basic interdiction instincts to determine if the package is worth your time. Check source cities, credit vs. cash payments, and hand written labels to name a few.

Just to share some of my personal experience with parcel interdiction with you all: We recently assisted with a parcel interdiction and had great success. Even though we’ve not had a lot of training with parcel interdiction we did in fact have an excellent case. The package was targeted based upon certain criteria making the package suspicious. We conducted a parcel sniff in an enclosed environment allowing enough time for the package to warm up. Based upon the parcel sniff and subsequent alert a search warrant was obtained for the package. A controlled delivery of the package and execution of the search warrant yielded approximately 16 ounces of crystal methamphetamine. Based upon that search warrant we were able to obtain another search warrant at a different location. We seized from that location approximately two (2) pounds of crystal methamphetamine. Based upon a parcel sniff we were able to assist in the seizure of approximately three (3) pounds of crystal methamphetamine with a street value in excess of $130,000 USD.

I wanted to share this experience with you and also help other handlers understand the importance of training. It’s especially important to try and train in scenarios which you think you may use in the real world. This parcel interdiction will change the way I train on a regular basis. This has been a great experience for us and we learned important lesson in how to train using different methods.


About The Author:

Chris Watkins started his law enforcement career as a police officer in our Nation’s Capital before moving his family west. In DC he worked with the Major Narcotics Unit as well as performing undercover assignments in the Street Robbery Unit. In his new location he was assigned to the Street Crimes Unit with the majority of his duties encompassing narcotics investigations and doing more undercover work. Currently he’s assigned as a K-9 handler for his agency. He’s an active member of the USPCA, FOP and FAAM.