Former police radio operator says its time Bendigo had its own dog squad

Former police dispatch worker Craig Middleton says it's time Bendigo had its own dog squad. “If you cordon off an area quickly, you get the dogs in there, you’ll get them." Picture: GLENN DANIELS

Former police dispatch worker Craig Middleton says it's time Bendigo had its own dog squad. “If you cordon off an area quickly, you get the dogs in there, you’ll get them." Picture: GLENN DANIELS

RELATED: Push for dog unit in Bendigo

A former police dispatch worker now living in Bendigo has backed suggestions the city should have its own dedicated dog squad, after several dangerous offenders evaded capture by police last week.

Craig Middleton manned the radio on “the busiest channel in the southern hemisphere” in western Sydney before moving to Bendigo four years ago and said the result of Thursday’s operation could easily have been different if a dog squad had been in the area sooner.

Mr Middleton said the dog squad was one of the “biggest resources” in the police toolkit and got their man on about 80 per cent of calls to which they were dispatched.

“If you cordon off an area quickly, you get the dogs in there, you’ll get them,” he said.

“If it’s a fairly major thing like the other day, if they were here in Bendigo, they would have got the guys no doubt because that was cordoned off pretty quickly from what I saw.”

A member of the dog squad tracks a number of wanted men in Bendigo last week. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

A member of the dog squad tracks a number of wanted men in Bendigo last week. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

Mr Middleton said in his experience, getting dogs to a scene quickly before it was contaminated by other people’s scent was “critical” in tracking offenders.

“If you’ve got to get someone up from Melbourne and it’s two hours away ... that basically means the police are going to have to cordon off the area, basically set up a perimeter and not let anyone in – often the police would contaminate the area themselves because you’ve got junior constables that don’t really understand the role of the dog squad,” he said.

“If you’ve got to wait two hours, that’s two hours for the scene to be contaminated in which case the dogs are useless.”

Mr Middleton’s comments follow those of former Victoria Police chief commissioner Kel Glare, who also said the idea of a Bendigo-based dog squad had merit, but only if it was economically viable.

“There needs to be a proper business case, an assessment of what the economics of it are,” he said.

“There’s a need for resources everywhere and they can’t be wasted.”

But Mr Middleton said he believed there would be enough work in the area to allow the canine unit to earn its keep.

“Bendigo’s a pretty big town now and there’s a lot of crime here, a lot of ice and a lot of burglaries and stuff and that would be mainly a lot of the call outs, for burglaries, hot crimes we call them, things that have just happened,” he said.

“If it’s only a minor crime you’re not going to call the dog squad in but if the dog squad’s handy they’ll just come up on air and say ‘Dog 15, I’ll take that one’, if they’re not doing anything else.

“What price do you pay and how do you weigh up community safety versus economics, what’s more important?”

A Victoria Police spokesman declined to say how long it took for the canine unit to reach Bendigo, but said the squad utilised a number of different resources to transport their members, including the police air wing, in order to get to incidents “in the most timely fashion”.

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