LIBERTY, Maine — The newest addition to Belfast’s police force is already earning his stripes, sniffing out a teenager accused of a weeklong crime spree that stretched from central New Hampshire to midcoast Maine.
Dex, a Dutch-German shepherd mix, and his handler, Officer Travis Spencer, graduated from K9 patrol school last week. Their skills were put straight to the test Tuesday, after a reported camp break-in on an island on Stevens Pond in Liberty.
On the afternoon of June 20, Dex and Spencer hopped on a boat and went to the camp with other officers, including Waldo County sheriff’s deputies. They found evidence that someone had been there recently, according to a release from Chief Deputy Jason Trundy.
That evidence included a pair of shorts that police believed belonged to the suspect, a 14-year-old boy involved in a series of other vehicle and camp break-ins in the area. Dex sniffed the shorts, then followed the scent to the shoreline.
Spencer worked Dex along the shore, but “Dex’s only interest was in the water,” so Spencer and the deputies followed Dex across the pond through chest-high water, according to the Maine Police Canine Association. Back on shore, Dex found the scent again and led the group north, before heading back into the water and approaching another nearby camp.
Inside, police found the teen suspect, who allegedly broke into at least three separate camps on the pond. He was charged with burglary and criminal mischief and taken to Mountain View Juvenile Detention Center in Charleston.
“The individual confirmed that he indeed swam from the island and again entered the water swimming to his current location, which was exactly what K9 Dex indicated to Spencer,” according to the Canine Association post recounting the search.
Police said the teenager is a suspect in a series of crimes over the past week stretching from central New Hampshire to midcoast Maine.
He and another juvenile fled a school in New Hampshire and allegedly stole a vehicle from a neighboring town. Police in Campton, New Hampshire, where the school was located, believed the teens would head to Liberty, where one of their family members lived. Campton police notified the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, according to Trundy.
On June 16, deputies went to that family member’s address, found the boys, and made arrangements to send them back to New Hampshire.
Three days later, deputies in Waldo County were on the lookout for one of the boys, a 14-year-old again, after Farmington police notified them that the teen had run away from New Hampshire a second time and was suspected in several motor vehicle thefts in and around Farmington.
Again, the sheriff’s office went to the same family member’s home, but the teen ran into the woods when police arrived. Police searched into the night and the next morning, but couldn’t find him.
The report of the camp break-in on June 20 prompted police to call in Dex and Spencer.
The Waldo County Sheriff’s Office didn’t have any additional information about what facility the teens ran away from, and a message left Thursday for the Campton, New Hampshire, police chief wasn’t returned Thursday.
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