CLEVELAND (WJW) – In just a few weeks, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff Department’s newly formed downtown safety unit has confiscated illegal drugs and more than a dozen firearms.

“They have made several arrests,” said Sheriff Harold Pretel. “They have been busy.”

In August, the sheriff assigned eight deputies and one sergeant to the special unit to help reduce violent crime in downtown Cleveland.

Two K-9 officers, Felix and Jimmy, are part of that unit and have been instrumental in finding the drugs and weapons, Pretel said.

“If one of the deputies stops a car and they have probable cause, we will then bring the dogs to check it out,” said Deputy Tony Quirino. “If we get a positive alert, we will search the car.”

The new unit started Aug. 17 and has already made over 200 traffic stops and issued 89 traffic citations.

The FOX 8 I-Team has reported that the downtown area has seen an increase in violent crime in the past few months. 

According to Cleveland police reports, there have been dozens of reports of car break-ins, robberies and shootings in the downtown area since April. 

There was also a mass shooting July 9 in the city’s Warehouse District.  

Cleveland police are short hundreds of officers, so deputies and troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol have been working with the city to increase patrols in the area.

“The men and women that are assigned to the downtown safety patrol and the K-9s appreciate being out there because they know they are making a difference,” Pretel said. “We have gotten a lot of positive feedback.”

Deputy Jim DeCredico says they want people to feel safe and to enjoy being in the heart of the city.

“Come on down this weekend,” DeCredico said. “We are going to be out and if anyone wants to meet the dogs, Felix is super social.”

The sheriff added that the downtown safety unit right now is temporary, but he believes it may soon become permanent.

“The public is telling the deputies thank you for being out here, thank you for keeping us safe,” Pretel said. “That’s good to know we are doing the right thing here.”