How the MTA Police Canine Unit trains to keep riders safe

- With approximately 50 dogs in service, the MTA Police Department has one of the largest canine explosives-detection forces in the country.

Sgt. William Finucane said the unit, established in 2002, plays an extremely important role in and around transit environments. The officers and their dogs train in Stormville, N.Y., for real-life situations. Captain John Kerwick said the teams learn how to deal with various scenarios that they might encounter.

The canines and their officers help protect MTA riders from terrorism and other criminal acts. Kerwick said the unit works to protect the transit systems and soft targets that are crowded places, such as Grand Central Terminal and Jamaica Station.

And their work goes beyond catching bad guys. They help with tracking down lost children and older adults who have cognitive issues, such as Alzheimer's disease.

The unit invited Fox 5 to get a look at the tactical training course, a 16-week session that focuses on transit-related issues. The training includes searching buildings, trains, and buses.

Kerwick said the dogs support the officers in ways humans and other tools could ever do. The dogs are taught to track human odors, too. Their sense of smell is incredible and within minutes they can lead officers to a suspect or evidence.

In 2017, the MTAPD Canine Unit encountered more than 4,000 unattended items in the MTA system. All were cleared safely.

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