With funding from the Governor’s Office, as your District Attorney I am proud to launch our early interdiction K9 program, Watching Over Our Future (WOOF). After applying for and receiving grant funds to pay for the salary as well as the vehicle, every school in Atascosa, Frio, Karnes, La Salle, and Wilson Counties now have access to free, unlimited K9 searches at their junior highs and high schools. Searches are done completely randomly, or on request of the school if there is a specific need. Charlotte, Cotulla, Dilley, Falls City, Floresville, Jourdanton, Karnes City, La Vernia, Pleasanton, Pearsall, Poteet, Poth, Runge, and Stockdale have all signed up to be a part of the program.
I was determined to start a school K9 program for a few reasons: (1) The vast majority of our criminal dockets are plagued with cases that stem from drug addiction. The root cause of many of our violent crimes and almost all property crimes is drugs, mainly methamphetamine. When prosecuting these cases, defendants are often required by the court to provide details of their drug use. The overwhelming majority of criminals admit they were exposed to drugs during their junior high or high school years, and many times at school. (2) Most of our schools cannot justify the cost of a full-time K9 handler, patrol vehicle, and K9. But covering over 5,000 square miles of South Texas, and fifteen independent school districts made the justification easy for our office. The Alamo Area Council of Governments and the Governor’s Office agreed. (3) School violence has become a disturbing trend and great concern to all of us. Nine students and a teacher were killed at Santa Fe High School in Sante Fe, Texas on May 18, 2018. Governor Abbott invited me and several others to meet with students following the shooting. We asked students how things could be better and what they would like to see at their school. While there were many ideas conveyed, universally, all students wanted increased law enforcement presence. Students all said more visible and frequent visits from law enforcement would make them feel more safe and secure.
Our K9 Investigator, Daniel Kaufman, is an Atascosa County resident, has 8 years of law enforcement experience, and is an Army Veteran. Gerben is a 3-year-old Dutch Shephard, who loves his job, and takes it very seriously. Since November 8, Investigator Kaufman and Gerben have logged 2,200 miles on the new Tahoe, searched 17 schools, and had five alerts for the odor of narcotics. By no means do I believe this will completely end drug possession or use on school campuses. However, these totally random searches will certainly be an added deterrent to bringing drugs to schools, locker rooms, and parking lots, as well as provide students a sense of safety and security, and hopefully prevent some students from going down the path of those that fill our district courtrooms.