Dogs smell drugs at school, don't find any

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Although narcotics detection dogs picked up the scent of drugs six times during a search Thursday of Moffat County High School, police didn't find illegal substances.

School officials requested the search after finding marijuana at the school earlier this year, Craig police Officer Alvin Luker said.

"Our mission is to create a safe, quality learning environment, and that environment needs to be drug free," Assistant Principal Thom Schnellinger said.

During the search, police take dogs to students' lockers. When a dog gives an alert at a locker, school officials search it. They also search surrounding lockers.

Because lockers aren't airtight, the search isn't always precise, Luker said.

Even when drugs aren't present, dogs can pick up the scent of residue and lingering odors, Moffat County Sheriff's Deputy Courtland Folks said.

Folks and his dog, Tzar, also participated in the search.

The police department has an agreement with the high school to conduct searches using drug dogs. High school officials request searches, but they must have a specific reason. School officials also must agree to pursue a criminal investigation if an illegal substance is found during such searches.

"Our policy states that we won't do a search just because there's suspicion of drugs," Luker said. "There has to be a definite need."

Luker and his dog, Fury, conducted three searches last year.

Thursday's drug search was the first of the year at the school.

"Obviously we want to keep the schools safe," he said. "We do this as a courtesy to the schools, this isn't a function of the police department."

This is the first year that Luker and Fury were joined by Folks and Tzar in a school search.

With two dogs, the three-floor search took less than an hour.

During searches last year, Luker and Fury covered only one floor to keep from disrupting school. They conducted searches in less than an hour.

On a single floor, Fury gave an alert an average of seven times, Luker said.

Luker said the searches are making a difference.

"Our purpose is not to try to get kids in trouble for carrying dope," he said. "We're trying to keep kids from bringing it to school. We have to do certain things to protect our children from others."

If dogs give an alert at a locker, school officials take action, Schnellinger said.

"(An alert ) creates a scenario of what's called reasonable suspicion," he said. "We will address this with students and parents, on an individual basis."

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