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DEC History

Background

Methamphetamine, or meth, is the number one illegal drug contributing to violent crime in Arizona. The increasing production of meth in home-based drug labs confronts Arizona with a unique set of problems that other illegal drugs have never before presented. The chemicals used to manufacture meth, the production process and the waste generated as a result of that process pose very real and serious dangers to the public and the environment. These dangers include toxic poisoning, chemical and thermal burns, fires and explosions. The children who live in and near meth labs are at the greatest risk of harm due to their growth and development; the abuse and neglect perpetrated on them by their caretakers and others who frequent their drug-laden homes; and their inability to protect themselves.

Responding to a suspected meth lab where children are present requires a carefully planned and coordinated approach involving multiple partners. Those who make meth often use meth, making them prone to violent behavior. Often, meth producers try to keep secret and protect their illegal operations by using weapons, explosive traps and surveillance equipment. The DEC Program has coordinated and improved the efforts of local law enforcement, Department of Economic Security Child Protective Services (DES CPS), medical professionals and the Attorney General's Office to respond to meth labs where children are present and to prosecute those responsible. The DEC Program ensures timely access to qualified personnel who can respond to the immediate and longer-term medical and safety needs of drug-endangered children.

From 2000-2007 , the Arizona DEC Program has resulted in the successful prosecution of over 138 meth lab cases involving over 291 children. Building on its success in Maricopa County, efforts continue through training and technical assistance to expand the DEC Program throughout Arizona.


History

DEC OverviewThe Meth & Kids Task Force was established in 2000 to address the problems associated with methamphetamine production in homes with children through a coordinated response by prosecutors, law enforcement, Child Protective Services (CPS) and medical personnel.

Increased production of meth in home-based drug labs confront Arizona with a unique set of problems that other illegal drugs have never before presented. The chemicals used to manufacture meth, the production process and the waste generated as a result of that process pose very real and serious dangers to the public and the environment. These dangers include toxic poisoning, chemical and thermal burns, fires and explosions. The children who live in and around meth labs are at the greatest risk of harm due to their developmental nature; the abuse and neglect perpetrated on them by their caretakers and the many others who frequent their drug-laden homes; and their inability to protect themselves.

A coordinated, multi-disciplinary team approach is critical to ensure that the needs of child victims are met and that adequate information is available to prosecute drug and child abuse cases successfully. The DEC Program has coordinated and improved the efforts of local law enforcement, CPS, medical professionals and the Attorney General’s Office to respond to meth labs where children are present and to prosecute those responsible.

The DEC Program has developed a model interagency protocol for the investigation of meth lab cases with children involved.

Initially, the primary focus of the Meth & Kids Task Force was on meth lab cases in Maricopa County. Task Force members also provided training and technical assistance to agencies throughout the State. The Governor’s Division of Substance Abuse Policy provided funding, which enabled the Attorney General’s Office to dedicate a prosecutor and legal assistant to the DEC Program.

Under the leadership of the Attorney General's office, the Meth & Kids Task Force was renamed the Arizona Drug Endangered Children Program in 2003 to include a broader range of narcotics cases that involve charges of child endangerment when children have been present. Building on its success in Maricopa County, efforts continue through training and technical assistance to expand the DEC Program throughout Arizona. Pinal County started its own DEC program in 2004, Pima County started a DEC program in 2005, Yavapai County created a DEC program in 2006 called MATForce, and counties such as Cochise County, Mohave County, Coconino County, and Yuma County are currently working on establishing DEC programs of their own.