A NOSE FOR CRIME FIGHTING
Dogged determination – meet K9 Khalesi and co who add ‘extra bite’ to Cape Town Metro Police’s efforts
A brindle Dutch Shepherd dog barks at the sight of her handler and jumps out of the police van excitedly. He plays with her, and she goes mad when he reaches for a toy. The dog, Khalesi, is part of the City of Cape Town’s Metro Police K9 Unit, and recently assisted police with a massive cocaine bust.
‘She’s like one of my daughters,” said a Metro Police officer about Khalesi, who helped to sniff out cocaine worth R84-million earlier in April at business premises in Cape Town’s Airport Industria area.
For safety reasons, Daily Maverick has agreed not to name the officer or publish any photos of him.
The drug bust
The drug bust took place on 18 April. Information was received about a possible drug consignment at business premises in the Airport Industria area, according to the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The police discovered 16 boxes containing 140 sealed bricks of cocaine. The Provincial Detective’s Organised Crime Narcotics Section was assigned to investigate the circumstances, possible origin and destination of the drugs.
There had been no arrests yet in the case, SAPS Western Cape media liaison officer Captain FC van Wyk said this week.
‘She’s like one of my daughters’
The officer and Khalesi have been together since 2018. “I think that’s my other daughter, that,” said the officer. “We’ve got a very good relationship.”
Training between a K9 officer and their dog is a process. The officer explained that training, just to establish a bond between them, takes up to three months.
After a bond is established, it takes up to another two months for the dog to be trained in sniffing out drugs or explosives. “I’ve got a love for dogs especially… I’ve got a Jack Russell at home that’s keeping me at home,” said the officer.
He described Khalesi as “sometimes naughty, but mostly good”.
The officer, who is 49, wanted to be a police officer since he was a child. He joined the Metro Department and has been a member of the K9 Unit for nine years.
“You must have a passion to work with those dogs,” the officer said.
Khalesi is six years old and, according to the officer, these dogs can normally work until they are 10, unless they fall ill. Once they “retire” the dogs are sold, and “the handlers get the first privilege of taking them home”.
This is not Khalesi’s first major drug bust. The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, told Daily Maverick that, in August 2022, drugs worth R210,000 were detected by Khalesi during a vehicle search in Bellville. The haul comprised 225 Mandrax tablets and 14 bags of uncut heroin. In January 2023 the dog detected 20 units of tik and 50 Mandrax tablets in Elsies River. This led to one arrest.
“The senses of dogs are much more heightened than a human being and can sniff out odour from a few days before. Just for example, if you had dagga in your backpack and removed it, the K9 will still be able to detect the odour/scent a few days after it has been removed,” explained Smith.
The Metro Police Department falls under Smith’s watch.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Meet the hounds trained to track down rhino poachers in Kruger Park
“The K9s are trained to detect specific contraband… These range from dagga, Mandrax, cocaine, heroin (unga), crystal meth (tik) and ecstasy to copper, firearms, ammunition and explosives,” said Smith.
In the K9 Unit there are currently 19 dogs, along with highly trained officers who detect narcotics, explosives, copper and metal, as well as search for missing persons.
Smith said the dogs added a huge “extra bite” to the Metro Police’s efforts to “track down illegal substances and cut down on the time spent on each case”.
Other K9 successes
Khalesi was not the unit’s only success over the past year.
Smith confirmed to Daily Maverick that, in January 2022, K9s Xena and Savage led their handlers to drugs with an estimated street value of R60,000 while helping the SAPS during an operation in Woodstock.
In February 2022, K9 Kai recovered tik, heroin and Mandrax from the steel frame of a kitchen table at a house in Heideveld.
In March 2022, K9 Spartan led his handler to a stash of tik and Mandrax with an estimated street value of R350,000 in a storage locker in Ottery, along with a 9mm pistol. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.