Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson is the first DA in the state to buy a drug-sniffing dog. His first day on the job, the 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever paid for himself, his training and the car rides in.
"He was doing a search with his handler and alerted on cash that had the odor of drugs on it, and we seized the cash; almost a half a million dollars," said Lawson.
The dog is named Pacman, but unlike his video game namesake, he doesn't eat pills. He sits down when he smells them. He and his handler are assigned to a Homeland Security task force which primarily works at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
"On another seizure, 2 kilos of cocaine. On a third seizure, 2 kilos of heroin," said Lawson, "In his first month, he has been a superstar."
Lawson purchased Pacman using $7,000 from HIDTA, a federal program in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. She saw the millions of passengers, their luggage and cargo flying through Clayton County as an investment opportunity.
"It benefits Clayton County taxpayers because if [Pacman] is the finder of the cash or the drugs, then we get a higher percentage of what is seized," said Lawson.
She says when she first took office, the district attorney's forfeiture account only had $2,000 in it. Now, that's topped $200,000, with plenty more on the way from Pacman.
"We've bought three vehicles, I've sent people to training we couldn't otherwise afford, we've gotten courtroom equipment we needed, computer equipment," said Lawson.
Pacman and his handler can also be used to search local cars, houses and businesses. His nose finds probable cause for a warrant.
"The beauty of this, the bad guys don't get to keep the money, and the good guys get to use it to put the bad guys in jail," Lawson said.