Dog’s nose keeps students clean

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2006

For the last four years, Tonquito – a Belgian Malinois dog – has been an important part of the Linden Police Department’s efforts to fight drugs.

But recently, Tonquito’s role became even more important. Now, he is helping the department eliminate the problem of drugs in local schools.

Recently Tonquito was taken to Marengo Academy and Linden High School for a surprise visit.

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The visit, Police Chief Jeff Laduron said, was part of the department’s effort to keep drugs out of the hands of young people.

“This is just part of our new plans and our ongoing work on our drug situation,” Laduron said. “We have already been into Marengo Academy and we plan to go into all of them.”

The visits, Laduron said, will take place in both local high schools and the vocational school. Even the principals will not know when the dog is coming.

On a routine search, he said, they might search lockers or ask members of a particular class to leave the room with their belongings behind. When the room is clear, Laduron said, the dog will search book bags, student seating and even the teachers desk.

So far, Laduron said, they haven’t found any drugs. Hopefully, he said, this will continue to be the case and they can use the dog as a deterrent.

Tonquito, he said, will also be used in traffic stops and any other situation they feel may involve drugs. Laduron said this is all part of their plan to use their full department to get drugs off the streets.

“We are trying to use a proactive plan to get rid of drugs,” Laduron said. “I have a full crew of officers now and we are concentrating on drugs.”

The fight against drugs, Laduron said, is something he knows his department can’t get away from. To make a difference, he said, it has to be on their minds all the time.

“We are working on it every day,” Laduron said. “We are going to make a difference. We don’t make a raid every day, but I guarantee you it is on our minds.”

Now that a full force is in place, he said, the department could fully enforce a zero tolerance program. If a person is caught with marijuana seeds, they are going to jail. If they are caught with 20 tons, they are going to jail. The amount makes no difference.

None of this would be possible, Laduron said, without the support of the city council.

“The council has been very good to us and given us some leeway and resources,” Laduron said. “They have let us change up some of our vehicle so we won’t be so obvious.”