STOCKTON, CA- The first half of the school year in Stockton had several dangerous weapons turn up on campuses.
After a loaded gun went off in Van Buren Elementary School this month, the Stockton Unified School District asked trainer Debi DeShon and her canine detection teams to start assisting in random searches.
DeShon's Interquest Detection Canines will be sniffing out illegal substances that shouldn't be finding their way into schools.
"Things like marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, ecstasy, as well as prescription drugs," said DeShon of her dogs' abilities. "They can also smell unopened bottles of alcohol and things made from gunpowder like bullets and firecrackers."
At Jane Frederick High School, students were offered a one-time heads up on the detection dogs' skills with a demonstration by the black Labrador "Dale", before the paws start trotting through the hallways unannounced.
"We're not here to try to bust kids," DeShon said."We're here to make sure they make good choices and don't bring any of those things to school."
And so far, it appeared some kids may have gotten the message.
"One of the kids walked up to campus security and he went 'Aw man, here. Take this,' and what this is, is an illegal knife to have on the campus," saidStockton Unified School District PoliceChief Jim West, who revealed the utility knife turned over by the student after DeShon and Dale's demonstration.
DeShon has three dogs that will rotate shifts this week visiting Stockton schools. The dogs will sniff through backpacks, lockers, bathrooms and even in students' personal vehicles parked on campus. West said the searches are another attempt the school district is utilizing to make schools safer.
"A person doesn't just become a gang member after they graduate high school, the recruitment can start as early as 8, 9, 10 years old," West said. "We have seen kids bringing weapons to school and the atmosphere in Stockton has become more violent lately."
West said the schools' focus is on prevention, not punishment. The school board will vote next week whether to give a year-long contract to DeShon and her dogs or hire a full-time canine handler at the district police department.