CUMBERLAND CO. (WTVD) -- Keeping your children safe is top priority for school leaders, and in Cumberland County before students step foot into their building a special Sheriff's Office K-9 Unit is making sure there are no hidden dangers.
The team sweeps through schools daily looking for guns. Sheriff Ennis Wright came up with the program years ago when he was just a major with the agency. Shortly after the Cape Fear High School shooting in 2011, he rallied a team of K-9s and handlers to secure schools and county buildings.
"A lot of people think these are drug dogs but they're gun dogs," said Lt. Tim Loughman.
But just like drug dogs who have a nose for narcotics, these pups strictly sniff for snipers. The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office is the only county agency in the state that has a nationally certified team.
"They're trained on multiple different types of odors. We train on guns that haven't been recently fired for several months, that haven't been handled for several months. We train on assault rifles. You name it," said Loughman.
These dogs beat the sun and most of us to work each morning. By 9 a.m. they've already secured every county building and searched certain county schools.
"We are looking inside and outside schools. We're checking parking lots and vehicles wherever weapons can be concealed is what we are checking. And do we hit every school every week? No because we only have three dogs but it's an added asset for the SRO's and for the Sheriff's Office," said Loughman.
Only ABC11 was invited for a sniff-along as K-9 Hugo searched Massey Hill Classical High School. While nothing was found there, the K-9 Unit showed us how the sweeps work.
The K-9 handler hid a gun inside a vacant locker for K-9 Hugo to find. Within seconds, Hugo sat to alert a possible detection. From there, the SRO confiscates the weapon and initiates the investigation.
Just this year, there have been several.
"A parent had brought it on campus and they had it in their vehicle." said Sheriff Ennis Wright.
But whether in a locker or car, the Sheriff says it's illegal.
"If it's discovered, you're going to get charged with it," said Wright.
Wright told ABC11 he believed the schools and churches should be the safest places for children. He's been working with Cumberland County Schools Interim Superintendent Tim Kinlaw to come up with additional safety measures.
"But we're living in a different time. So whatever measures we can take. We need to go ahead and do it, "said Wright.
CCSO K-9 unit dedicated to finding guns sniff schools daily
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