Drug deals inside schools being targeted by deputies

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The days of teaching DARE at Harrison County schools are over. Now, Sheriff Melvin Brisolara wants his school resource officers to enforce the law.

Since that initiative started in January, 2008, two dozen students have been arrested for bringing drugs to school. And 13 weapons have been confiscated.

"I feel that this aggressive approach on the drugs in schools is working," Sheriff Brisolara said.

The aggressive approach the sheriff mentioned focuses on a dog and his deputy.  Red is one of the two drug dogs assigned to patrol Harrison County schools. The yellow lab and his handler Steve Solomon randomly search cars and lockers, trying to snuff out drug use by students.

Sheriff Melvin Brisolara purchased the drug dogs because he felt county schools needed help keeping drugs away from students.

"We're just taking a different approach in addressing it, to see if we can lower the stats of the drugs going into Harrison County schools," Brisolara said.

The sheriff released new statistics this week that absolutely startled him. In just more than a year, drugs had been confiscated 24 different times from students inside Harrison County classrooms.

"We've got to deter the drugs coming into schools," he emphasized.

One way to do that, the sheriff says, is to keep Red and Deputy Solomon on the front lines. They walk the halls everyday to monitor student activities at Harrison Central High School.

"We want the kids to be able to come to us," Solomon explained. "But we also want to let them know if they mess up, we're going to do what we've gotta do."

Thirteen months ago, the Harrison County sheriff changed the role of school resource officers. He still wanted them to befriend students. But he also wanted students to know that the officers would enforce county laws if crimes were committed on campus.

"We make the arrest on the individual," the sheriff explained. "We follow up with where they got it from, and just take it on up the ladder. And that's the only way you're going to stop the drugs coming into schools. And that's working."

Shelly Ladner oversees the school resource officers program.

"This has worked. This is what we do everyday, try to keep the kids safe," she said.

You can credit some of that safety success to Red and his handler Steve Solomon.

Sheriff Brisolara has also created a truancy deputy to reinforce the need for children to be in school. So far this school year, the truancy officer has confronted 130 parents who's children had been skipping classes. More than two dozen of those parents were cited by deputies for violating the county's truancy laws.