Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Drug-sniffing dogs may visit Hillsborough County's high schools

TAMPA — Lockers won't be safe hiding places. Neither will backpacks and cars.

The sheriff's drug-sniffing dogs are trained to find hidden marijuana. And for the first time, the agency plans next year to conduct random drug checks at Hillsborough County high schools.

Authorities will launch an education campaign in August to warn teens that the dogs are coming.

Then deputies will randomly bring them to the county's high schools. Students will not know which school a dog is going to visit on a particular day, so there won't be any way to prepare, sheriff's Capt. Chad Chronister said.

Chronister is leading the agency's charge and working with the Hillsborough County school district, which is interested. Each agency's lawyers are reviewing the plan before it gets a green light.

Chronister says the Sheriff's Office knows that public support for marijuana legalization is increasing.

"But not for children," he said. "And not in schools."

The enforcement could lead to more arrests, but that's not the goal. In fact, Chronister hopes the education campaign will convince teens to stay away from drugs — or at least keep them off school grounds.

The agency will consider their effort a success if arrests decrease, he said.

The Sheriff's Office averages about 30 felony marijuana arrests a year in middle and high schools. Misdemeanor marijuana arrests (less than 20 grams) have hovered around 220 in recent years.

Authorities usually confiscate about 750 grams of marijuana each year — about 1.7 pounds.

In Pinellas, the Sheriff's Office sometimes brings a drug-sniffing dog to campus if they are investigating a specific tip or dealing with increased drug use in the school's vicinity, said district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf.

They don't do random, routine checks, like Hillsborough is planning.

In Pasco, deputies send their dogs to each high school and middle school once a year.

To warn students about the upcoming enforcement, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office has produced a video that will be shown at each high school.

In the video, marijuana is hidden in a high school locker. Then a dog and its handler arrive and start passing by the lockers, along with a school resource deputy and school administrator — just like they will do next year.

The dog quickly finds the pot.

Hillsborough's drug-sniffing dogs are trained to "signal" when they smell drugs. That means the dog either barks or sits down.

That signal is enough reason for deputies and school officials to open the student's locker. Chronister says he expects deputies will likely come across weapons in the course of their searches, as drugs often move with guns.

"Our hope," he said, "is that we might even prevent something from happening with these guns."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

Drug-sniffing dogs may visit Hillsborough County's high schools 04/26/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 11:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo


    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  2. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies


    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  3. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win


    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  4. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  5. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin


    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]