Cop camp: K-9s a big hit at Crime Scene Investigation summer program for kids

Imagine that your camp counselor is the town’s police chief and you spend your summer days cracking cases and watching K-9s sniff out contraband.  

That’s what this week has been like for kids in the Crime Scene Investigation camp run by Rec & Parks and Marblehead Police.

“I loved learning about fingerprinting and seeing the K-9 unit,” said camper Hazell Wright, 12. “I learned lots of new things, like that officers can adopt their dogs for $1 when the dogs retire.” (Most police dogs serve for five to 10 years.)

 Essex County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Ryder sniffs out fake drugs in Marblehead Police Chief Dennis King’s pocket. 

Jasper Gold, 11, liked seeing what’s on a police officer’s belt. “It has a baton, a taser, a firearm and pepper spray,” he explained.

Everyone enjoyed watching tasers in action when School Resource Officer Sean Sweeney Jr. tased a tree. 

“I learned that the taser can shoot 25 feet away and shocks you for five seconds,” said Quinn Nevins, 10. “And you’re only allowed to shoot it three times in a row.”

The K-9s were the biggest hit, though, captivating campers’ attention when they pulled up in sheriff’s vans. Alvin, a two-year-old Belgian malinois, stood attentively by the side of Deputy Sheriff Kyle Kidger. 

Deputy Sheriff Todd Nestor (far left) with his partner Ryder and Deputy Sheriff Kyle Kidger and partner Alvin at the Crime Scene Investigation camp. CURRENT PHOTO / LEIGH BLANDER

Kidger explained that police dogs and their human partners go through 15 weeks of training before hitting the streets. 

Dogs’ sense of smell is about 10,000-80,000 times stronger than humans’, Deputy Sheriff Todd Nestor told campers. 

“He can find a gun, keys, cell phone and a knife,” said Kidger about Alvin. “He’s searching for human odor.”

Nestor added, “When we’re searching for bad guys, dogs can smell people way before we know they’re there. [Ryder’s] tail pops up, his ears prick up and he starts barking. Then I know someone is close.”

Police Chief Dennis King with his Crime Scene Investigation campers as they watch K-9s in action. CURRENT PHOTO / LEIGH BLANDER

Kidger and Nestor handed a camper some keys and had her hold onto them for a few minutes, to get her odor on them. Then he asked the girl to hide the keys in a large grassy field near the Hamond Center behind Gatchell’s. Alvin came out and after an order (most of the orders are in German), he sniffed for less than a minute before locating the keys and laying down next to them.

“Good boy,” shouted Kidger, giving Alvin his favorite toy (a small yellow ball with a red rope attached) as reward.

Nestor set up several boxes in the grass, one containing fake drugs, and had Ryder sniff out the correct box. He also easily sniffed out fake drugs hidden in King’s pocket, when King lined up with other officers. 

And in the real world? “He’s had four or five big finds,” Nestor said. “He found two kilos of coke on his first search.”

Alvin then showed campers how he can attack suspects on command, as he bit and held onto Nestor, who was wearing protective gear.

Campers also learned that K-9s live with their officers. “I spend more time with him than anyone else,” joked Nestor, who said Ryder can’t wait to hop in the sheriff’s van every morning.

“I wish I was excited to go to work as he is,” he laughed.

Before the K-9s arrived, the campers had their own case to crack, when Lieutenant David Ostrovitz drove up Everett Paine Boulevard, and (purposefully) left a backpack in his unlocked car. Detective Sergeant Sean Brady played a thief, grabbed the backpack and ran past the campers into the woods, dropping clues along the way.

 Campers investigate a (staged) car break-in as part of the CSI camp with Marblehead Police.  COURTESY PHOTO / Marblehead Police Department

King then showed the kids how to approach and process a crime scene. 

Now that she’s gotten a taste for police work, Camilla Cross, 11, knows what she wants to be when she grows up.

“I want to be a police officer,” she said.

This is the first year of the Crime Scene Investigation camp and King says he plans to hold it again next summer.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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