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City’s canine crime fighters bite into awards

The award-winning Vicksburg Police Department K-9 unit dogs with their handlers are, from left, Lex and Patrolman Gary Cooper, Tongo and Patrolman Jay Ghrisby and Drake and Lt. Robert Stewart. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[04/13/01] Man’s best friend may be a criminal’s worst enemy in Vicksburg, thanks to three crime-fighting canines.

Lex, Drake and Tongo in March won awards in a competition n Newton in March. The three are known as dual-purpose K-9s, which means they are capable of tracking, apprehending, locating 12 different narcotics, crowd control and rescue.

During a competition of 15 dog teams from Mississippi and Alabama, all three of Vicksburg’s police dogs won first place in three of four events. The events were in tracking, narcotics, dual-purpose and apprehension.

Tongo, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, has been trained by Patrolman Jay Ghrisby for more than a year. Tongo, who won the dual-purpose award, lives and works with Ghrisby everyday.

“It says a lot for our persistent training,” Ghrisby said of Tongo’s award. “They’re good dogs.”

During Tongo’s first apprehension for the force, he was hit with a stick, but hasn’t ever been seriously injured, Ghrisby said.

“We train them in a way that when they are facing difficult situations, to overlook it and do their job,” Ghrisby said.

Patrolman Gary Cooper, whose dog, Lex, won an award for tracking, said the success in the competition says a lot for the K-9 unit.

“It’s very good for us, especially having such a new K-9 division,” Cooper said. “Since we’ve gotten them, they’ve been a great promise to the police department.”

Lex has been with Cooper for three years and was responsible for tracking two men who attempted to rob Mutual Credit Union on Halls Ferry Road in August.

Cooper said Lex has been responsible for five or six arrests since joining the force.

Lt. Bobby Stewart’s dog, Drake, won first place in the competition for his ability to locate narcotics.

“You can’t measure how many crimes are prevented by having them,” Ghrisby said.