The grand jury decided to look at the Drug Endangered Children (DEC) Program of the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force (NTF), a special law enforcement unit targeting illegal narcotics production, distribution, and sale. The DEC Program started in San Mateo County in 2000. The Sheriff's Office and all police agencies in the county contribute to the funding with the Sheriff's Office providing the majority of funding and personnel.
An ancillary program to the NTF is the Drug Endangered Children Program. The DEC program began in the rural areas of Butte and Shasta Counties in Northern California where the proliferation of methamphetamine labs resulted in multiple police raids. Many of the raided labs were in homes, trailers, and apartments where children ranging in age from birth to 18 years old were present. Chemicals used to produce methamphetamine pose a serious threat to the health and safety of anyone who is exposed to or comes in contact with them. Young children are particularly susceptible due to spillage, airborne pollutants, and lack of concern by parents involved in the manufacture and sales of methamphetamine. To address the immediate concern for the health and welfare of children, a multi-disciplinary approach was developed.
In San Mateo County, the "team" responsible for endangered children includes the NTF, Children Protective Services, public health department, district attorney, and the Department of Justice. These combined agencies can offer a variety of approaches to care for these at-risk children, including health care, testing, and shelter. The DEC's program goal is to place children in a drug-free environment and help break the cycle of illegal drug use.
The ramifications of exposing children to drug labs are both short and long-term. The health problems incurred at an early age continue to manifest themselves into adulthood and result in a long-term impact on services provided by various agencies concerned with public health and safety. The DEC program will identify at-risk children and help eliminate the dangers associated with illicit methamphetamine labs. DEC intervention will result in a more efficient use of present and future county health resources. Although the program has aided no children yet, the grand jury believes it is a worthwhile method to reach at-risk children and remove them from very harmful environments.