During approximately three years with Norfolk Southern's police department, a canine named Smoke has helped apprehend an armed car-jacking suspect in Atlanta and a man attempting to burglarize an intermodal train in Chicago. At the safety expo, the charcoal German Shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix was a star attraction as he sat amiably for head rubs and played tug of war with his attentive keeper, Joe Shirley, a K-9 police specialist in Atlanta.
Smoke is one of 11 canines who work alongside NS police officers in the major cities on the railroad's system, including Chicago, Toledo, and Atlanta. He is dual-trained to sniff out explosives and to help apprehend criminal suspects, said Shirley.
"We do mandatory explosive sweeps at critical locations and in high-threat areas," Shirley said, including at office buildings and around key infrastructure across the system.
Canines have been part of the NS police department since 1999, but Shirley said he regularly encounters employees who don't know the railroad uses them.
Shirley said the K-9 units add great value to the police department. Just in January and February, the K-9 forces conducted 1,758 hours of train and yard protection, made 10 arrests and assisted in 15 others, handled 305 calls, located nine suspects or articles, and conducted 104 explosive sweeps - and the busy season is just starting with the approach of warmer weather, he added.
"We drive marked police units and work hard to be visible in high crime areas," Shirley said. "We strive to protect our employees, our property, and our customers' freight."