Funds to fight meth go toward busts, not kids

San Francisco has received more than $1 million in federal and state grant money for fighting illegal methamphetamine but has yet to fulfill a requirement to protect children who are affected by the drug.

The grants, allocated through the California Emergency Management Agency and allocated to the Police Department, require the Police Department, District Attorney’s Office and the Health and Human Services Department to at the very least develop a policy for protecting children who live with parents who abuse or manufacture drugs.

But a policy has yet to be produced, even one year after a state auditor mentioned that there needed to be a stronger agreement between agencies to help drug-endangered children, also known as DEC.

California has fought illegal methamphetamine use through greater police funding and by controlling the sale of over-the-counter ingredients used to make the drug. About $300 million is allocated throughout California each year. The drug-endangered children program was developed in 1993 and has become a model for the rest of the country. Starting in 2007, localities wanting the drug-abatement funds had to implement the program.

Lt. Tom Cleary, who oversees a police task force funded through the grant, said there aren’t many reports of methamphetamine being produced in homes in San Francisco as there are in more rural areas. He said the Police Department focuses on traffickers and dealers, spending the grant money for buy-bust operations and paying confidential informants.

The City did produce a rough draft of a policy for drug endangered children but it was never finalized, according to Assistant District Attorney Sharon Woo.

In those five years, Woo said, “I don’t remember seeing one lab case come through. Police are focusing on what San Francisco’s main problem is, and that is not manufacture.”

If a county does not follow a set of guidelines for a grant, it does not necessarily mean it will lose the grant, said Kelly Huston, a spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Management.

San Francisco is not the only agency to ignore the grant requirement, according to Mitch Brown, who with his wife formed the California Alliance for Drug Endangered Children. Brown’s organization is currently reviewing 109 policies from around the state.

“A lot of this is just getting the word out,” Brown said. “And providing the training to get them to facilitate this.”

 

Grants accepted

San Francisco has accepted more than $1 million from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services for the California Multi-Jurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Team program and at least one grant from the federal Community Oriented Policing Services. All require a focus on child endangerment and an increase in referrals for drug-endangered children.

  State MMET Federal COPS meth
2007 $330,000 $235,252
2008 $295,000
2009 $346,785

 
Source: City budget

Enforcement method puts children first

An innovative program that protects children while fighting crime has become a national model, yet in San Francisco it has never been implemented, though using the program is a requirement for accepting some grants.

In 1993, Sue Webber-Brown, a district attorney investigator in Butte County, developed the drug-endangered children program after finding several children in drug homes.

The plan calls for police, child-welfare workers, medical personnel and prosecutors to work together on those cases and protect children from harmful chemicals or abuse.

Children found in drug houses often suffer physical, sexual or emotional harm or neglect resulting from exposure to an environment where adults are manufacturing, selling or using drugs.

Webber-Brown’s husband, Mitch Brown, said such children live in deplorable conditions, often exposed to the drugs themselves.

He said in California, 30 percent of children taken from homes where drugs are found had some drugs inside their own systems.

Now the husband-and-wife team are training law-enforcement personnel to implement the program, which 15 years later became a requirement for accepting certain grant funds.

San Francisco police have a protocol for how to treat children when making an arrest at their homes, according to police Officer Samson Chan.

Police are told to minimize trauma by notifying child protective services, and by not making arrests in front of children, Chan said.

Officers are told to look out for toys, diapers, bunk beds and other signs of children when possible.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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