DARE officer hopes to soon have drug-sniffing dog as partner

January 16, 2013

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The Granbury City Council and the Granbury School Board have voted in support of Officer Jeff Hastings’ plan for taking a bite out of student drug use.

Now all the DARE officer has to do is raise the money for the dog that will hopefully achieve that goal.

Hastings, who teaches the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program to students in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades, needs $8,800 to purchase Ben, a one-and-a-half-year-old black Lab. Ben has been trained to sniff out marijuana, heroine, cocaine and meth. His owners near San Antonio have agreed to hold him in temporary reserve while Hastings tries to raise the money for his purchase.

The Citizens Police Academy last week pitched in $1,000 after the Granbury City Council voted in support of having a drug dog in the schools.

United Way of Hood County and its Hood County Substance Abuse Council are helping Hastings by having representatives approach local donors and civic groups.

making a difference

United Way Executive Director Toni Brown-Belew and Dave Moore, chair of the Substance Abuse Council, said Monday that they believe Ben could bring a significant decline in drug use and distribution among students, particularly at Granbury High School. They, as well as Hastings, said the dog would take pressure off of students who might fear exposure or retaliation if they snitch on students who are involved with drugs.

Hastings said he has been approached by a number of parents who want to see a drug-sniffing dog utilized in the schools. If he is able to raise the money in time to purchase Ben, he will attend a three-week training class in February.

Hastings said that a local vet has volunteered to provide basic services for Ben, such as annual vaccinations. Brown-Belew said she has confidence that Ben’s food could be obtained for free.

She and Moore said that they initially believed that the Substance Abuse Council could provide the entire $8,800 through its Drug-Free Communities grant. However, they found that grant rules would not allow it.

Hastings said that Ben would be used in the hallways and locker areas at the schools, as well as the high school parking lot. Though the law allows for drug-sniffing dogs to be used on people, Granbury school district policy will not allow it, he said.

Hastings said that if Ben were to alert on a student’s vehicle, school officials would search it. If no drugs are found, the dog’s alert on the vehicle might indicate that drug use had occurred over the weekend or in recent days. Though no criminal charges would result, police would notify the student’s parent or guardian, and school officials would determine whether to discipline the student.

The DARE officer said that Ben would be a good supplement to the drug-sniffing services performed by the Granbury Police Department’s Mekky. Ben is kid-friendly, Hastings said, whereas Mekky is more aggressive – a trait that makes him good for roadside vehicle searches. When Mekky is used in schools, students must be removed from the area, and no one can be in the hallways, he said.

Moore said that Ben would be a deterrent that might prevent students from ever engaging in experimentation with illegal substances that could lead to addiction and a juvenile record.

Since Ben would be used at the schools on a daily basis, his presence would effectively create “a drug-free zone,” said Hastings.

how to help

Those wishing to give a donation toward the purchase of Ben can write a check to United Way of Hood County. On the memo line, write: City of Granbury/Canine Program.

By funneling the money through United Way, which is a nonprofit organization, donors will receive a tax deduction.

The United Way’s offices are located at BBVA Compass Bank on Highway 377 and old Highway 4, near Big Lots. The phone number there is 817-579-5100.

[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 258

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