The University got a new police officer last fall. His name is Aro, and although he’s just 3 years old, he has plenty of training under his belt—er, collar—including sniffing out bombs, tracking criminals, searching buildings for unauthorized persons, and finding evidence.
Adding a German shepherd to the campus police force certainly is fun and photogenic news from the Department of Public Safety, but the dog’s handler, Officer J.T. Egli, insists that his new partner is all business and that his presence already is helping make the campus—as well as Iowa City—a more safe place to live.
Working like a dog
Aro (pronounced “ah-roh”) accompanies Egli everywhere. They patrol campus and answer calls during the second shift, from 3 to 11 p.m., and are available to assist with bomb searches and incidents involving suspicious packages. When time permits, the two work on training exercises. At the end of the day, Aro rides home with Egli to a garage specially designed for the canine.
“Once a week we train with the city and county police dogs, and we’ve been called to duty by Iowa City a couple of times,” says Egli, a member of the Johnson County Metro Bomb Squad. “Aro can find guns; he smells the black powder.”
Aro’s keen sense of smell, Egli notes, is 700 times stronger than that of humans, an asset that cuts down significantly, for example, the number of man-hours needed to sweep for explosives at Kinnick Stadium and other large venues. His prior experience was locating explosives in the Middle East.
Aro, born and bred in the Czech Republic, is the first dog to join the UI police, thanks in part to grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Association of Police Chiefs. Egli spent five weeks training with Aro last fall at an Indiana kennel, and the two must complete an annual recertification process.
Despite a friendly demeanor—Aro exhibits many typical dog behaviors, like relishing affection from his human colleagues and chewing on tennis balls—the UI police dog makes people take campus law enforcement more seriously, Egli says.
“People stop when they see Aro. He’s 90 pounds and he can use every ounce of it,” he says. “We started a K-9 unit because we’re trying to be proactive in keeping the University as safe as possible.”
While Aro certainly adds an element of security to campus, Officer Brad Allison, a crime prevention specialist, urges students to take responsibility for their day-to-day safety as well as for their personal property.
“Don’t assume that because we’re in Iowa, people won’t steal,” says Allison, adding that students can register their valuables online at www.uiowa.edu/~pubsfty/projectid.htm.
Allison also advises parents to chat with their students about safety issues and to equip them with items such as adequate bike locks and security cables for laptops.
“Going to college is a tough transformation for students since they’ve always had someone else looking after them,” he says. “Talk to them about expectations and about how alcohol could ruin their college career and their ultimate goal of becoming successful. Students need to be responsible for their actions and take responsibility for their security.”
For more information about UI policing and crime prevention, see www.uiowa.edu/~pubsfty.
by Sara Epstein Moninger