School police confiscate five handguns in past week


School police have confiscated five handguns in four days from high school students and from adults picking up students.

The rash of gun confiscations -- all occurring without incident -- is a surprise to the Clark County School District Police Department, Lt. Ken Young said. School police confiscated three handguns from the beginning of school in August through January, he said.

"What a difference a few days make," he said, noting that police usually don't see such an increase until March, when the weather warms and student activity increases.

Overall for the school year, police have confiscated eight handguns and 22 air-powered pellet guns, which students carry because of their resemblance to real guns, Young said. Last school year at this time, confiscations totaled seven guns and 11 pellet guns.

The week's confiscations were mostly the result of tips from students and adults, he said.

The first occurred Monday at Centennial High School in North Las Vegas. Police acting on a tip found a 9 mm handgun on a 16-year-old student.

On Wednesday, police noticed a man at Hickey Elementary School in east Las Vegas becoming impatient with traffic while picking up a student. Upon approaching his car, they discovered a .40-caliber handgun in plain sight and arrested him, Young said.

That same day, police at Del Sol High School received a tip that a 16-year-old student had a handgun. But they didn't find one on him at the school east of McCarran International Airport. With his parents' permission, they searched his bedroom and found it.

The Clark County district attorney's office will decide whether to file charges against the teenager, Young said. Even if charges aren't filed, the district has a zero-tolerance policy for weapons on school campuses. Expulsions occur 99.9 percent of the time, he said.

On Thursday, police stumbled onto a loaded .32-caliber handgun while searching a student at North Las Vegas' Cheyenne High School whom they suspected of stealing property from another student.

The week's last confiscation occurred Thursday evening at Legacy High School in North Las Vegas when an adult reported that someone picking up a student had a gun. The tip turned up a .25-caliber handgun on the 29-year-old man who was also a felon, Young said.

Suspects' identities will be released as charges are filed, he said.

School police haven't confiscated so many guns in such a short time since six years ago at the height of a new gang's activity, he said. There is no indication of that being the case here, and neither the tipsters nor gun carriers gave indications of intended targets, he said.

Reasons given for carrying the weapons were protection or wanting to be cool, which is the reason police confiscate so many pellet guns, he said. A recent confiscation revealed that a student was carrying a gun for protection while walking to and from school because of problems the student had experienced, he said.

The guns are sometimes stolen but usually belong to family members who didn't realize the gun was gone, Young said.

Clark County high schools don't use metal detectors daily. They use them only at events, such as basketball games and dances.

Young said research shows that permanent metal detectors have little effect because students learn ways around them. Instead, the district puts two officers at each of its 49 high schools for a permanent presence. Roving officers check in with the 59 middle schools and 217 elementary schools.

Since the last rash of gun confiscations six years ago, activity has been on the decline. Police, now on heightened alert, want to keep it that way but need the community's help, Young said. He called for parents to check children's backpacks, cars and bedrooms routinely.

"We need everybody to be vigilant," he said.

Those with tips about weapons on school campuses can either call dispatch at 799-5411 or speak anonymously at 799-0228.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.

 

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