September 13, 2010
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A canine tracking team from the Florida Department of Corrections’ Gulf Correctional Institution was honored along with other law enforcement efforts Monday by Governor Crist during the 2009-10 Florida Missing Children’s Day Ceremony in Tallahassee.
“I could not be more proud of our canine officers, who are on call 24/7 to law enforcement agencies statewide to assist with fleeing felons, wandering adults with dementia and perhaps our most vulnerable citizens, missing children,” said Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil. “These men consistently do an outstanding job and contribute significantly to our mission of public safety.”
The four-man team comprised of Gulf C.I. Sergeant Kevin Romer, Correctional Officers Clyde Melvin, Derek McMillion and Jonathan Collins, along with canine Daisy, assisted in the efforts to find seven-month old Shannon Lea Dedrick in Washington County, who was reported missing on October 31, 2009. The baby girl was found alive in a 2 X 3 foot wooden box under her babysitter’s bed five days later.
There are 37 canine teams located at prisons throughout Florida, who are on call 24 hours a day to respond to local law enforcements’ requests for assistance in locating individuals. Last year alone, the DC’s bloodhounds were called to assist sheriff’s offices, police departments, the Florida Highway Patrol and others in need 611 times – averaging close to two calls per day.
The original purpose of the DC’s Canine Tracking Teams was to track (via scent) escaped inmates, but with fewer and fewer escapes occurring (there have been no escapes from a secure perimeter since 2006) their services are now being used more often by local law enforcement who don’t have K-9 units of their own, or who need additional K-9s to assist their teams. The dogs live in kennels on the prison grounds, and most are bloodhounds except for a few beagles. The dogs don’t attack when they find their quarry, (they bounce excitedly instead), which is why many law enforcement agencies prefer DC tracking units to find their missing and runaway children and the elderly.