Long Beach high schools have a new narc with a bark.
Clancy, a 3-year-old black Labrador retriever, will be patrolling the district's five high school campuses this year, sniffing for drugs and guns. Clancy can detect marijuana, cocaine and heroin as well as pick up the scent of gunpowder or oil, said his handler, Long Beach Police Officer Robert Stuart.
But Clancy is expected to be more than a police dog. He has been trained to be on his best behavior and to be friendly toward students.
"We'd like students to think of Clancy as their mascot," Stuart said. On his first tour of Long Beach Polytechnic High School last week, Clancy won friendly smiles from students. Some stopped to pet him.
As senior Olivia Cao cautiously reached over to pet Clancy, he wagged his tail and licked her hand.
"Clancy doesn't seem like a big old tough dog," she said.
Long Beach school officials have added Clancy's keen sense of smell to an ongoing campaign to make campuses safer.
All high school campuses have hand-held metal detectors. The district established a hot line and is encouraging students to turn in anyone carrying a weapon. Students on all high school campuses are subject to random searches for drugs and weapons.
Last year, officials seized 20 weapons from students. District officials also reported 167 cases of drug possession among students during the same period.
Students found with guns or weapons are suspended immediately, and they could be expelled for the rest of the school year, school officials said.
"In these cases, it's one strike and you're out," Supt. Carl A. Cohn said.
Clancy will be sniffing student lockers for drugs and guns, and patrolling school parking lots. The dog and his handler also may patrol the streets surrounding the campuses after school.
During a recent demonstration at Polytechnic, Stuart hid a closed plastic bag of marijuana in a row of lockers. It took the dog less than two minutes to locate the locker, which he scratched to indicate his find. His reward was an affectionate pat on the head and an encouraging "good boy!" from the officer.
Stuart said Clancy once located packages of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamines buried about two feet deep. He also told how Clancy detected the faint scent of a gun that had not been shot or cleaned for more than a year.
Fellow police officers had planted the weapon in a plastic bag in a locker without Stuart's knowledge. Much to Stuart's surprise, Clancy traced it within minutes and scratched the correct locker.
A recently formed group, Citizens and Business Against Crime, donated $4,000 to buy Clancy and train him to detect weapons and drugs.
The group's president, Sandra Shadden, helped found the organization of community and business leaders after her 27-year-old son, Bill, was gunned down last year in Belmont Shore as he fought with two juveniles who were trying to steal his bicycle.
Although the incident was not school-related, she said, it prompted her to work toward making high school campuses safer.
"How can you learn if you feel the kid behind you has a gun in his backpack?" she said. "If they don't feel safe, if their teachers don't feel safe, how can you learn?"