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Published October 09 2010

Drug sweep results from Fargo South parking lots surprise officials

A Fargo police officer said he was “surprised and disappointed” at the number of vehicles tagged for drugs during a K-9 sweep of the South High parking lot on Thursday morning.

The four drug-sniffing dogs used in the sweep had “hits” on a total of 11 vehicles in the school’s three parking lots, said School Resource Officer Chris Potter.

Several of those hits resulted in police seizing contraband from the vehicles, including small quantities of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and alcohol, Potter said.

Fargo police have used K-9 units to conduct parking lot sweeps and locker sniffs for at least 10 years, and they do so at the request of the school’s principal, he said.

Past sweeps have produced “very few” indications of drugs in the parking lots, he said.

“I was a bit taken aback by how many kids so boldly parked their cars right at the school with these items inside,” Potter said of Thursday’s sweep, which began at about 9:45 a.m.

South High Principal Todd Bertsch said he, too, was disappointed by the number, the highest during his tenure at South.

The K-9 sweeps are scheduled periodically based on the availability of the dogs, he said.

More than 600 vehicles park in the South High lots during school, Bertsch said. If one sets off the K-9 unit’s senses, school officials contact the student and invite him or her out to the vehicle to witness it being searched, he said.

The students who drove the contraband-carrying vehicles were all juveniles, Potter said. At least six of them were referred to juvenile court, Sgt. Mark Lykken said.

The students also could face out-of-school suspensions, Bertsch said. He wouldn’t disclose how many students were suspended, saying only that it was more than one.

Bertsch and Potter stressed that the sweeps are more about students’ health than punishments.

“We’re not just out to bust kids. It’s about getting them help, too,” which may include chemical dependency treatment, Potter said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528