Pubdate: Sun, 17 Nov 2002
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2002 The State
Author:  Lora Hines, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Greenville County officials add child endangerment to drug makers' 
violations The Greenville County Sheriff's Department thinks it has found a 
way to really stick it to meth makers: It's charging them with felony child 
endangerment when youngsters are found in a home where meth is made.

Officers say the felony charges might be just the tool needed to combat the 
drug in the Upstate, where meth has hit South Carolina the hardest.

Those convicted of felony child endangerment face a maximum 10-year 
sentence. The charge, which applies to baby sitters and relatives -- not 
just parents -- adds time to a convicted meth cook's sentence.

So far, four suspects charged in meth cases in Greenville County also have 
faced child endangerment charges. One other case was dismissed.

"We started looking at it from a safety standpoint with these kids," said 
Sgt. James McCann, who initiated the program after finding children at a 
meth lab more than a year ago.

"It's another sword to go after (meth makers) with," he said.

Greenville County narcotics officers are required to call juvenile services 
detectives if they find children living at a meth lab, McCann said.

"Those who have been charged have been totally shocked," McCann said. "It's 
not like a little stint in jail. You can get a lot more time on this."

Juvenile officers take children into emergency protective custody, and the 
state Department of Social Services finds them temporary homes until a 
Family Court judge sorts things out.

In the Midlands, Lexington County Sheriff James Metts is not ready to start 
filing child endangerment charges in meth cases. He's satisfied a county 
drug task force of deputies and police officers is dealing with Lexington's 
fairly new meth problem.

Since January, Upstate officers have found at least 77 meth labs, more than 
three times the number discovered the previous year.

Meth labs are so common in the Upstate that patrol officers and residents 
often stumble upon them, said Drug Enforcement Administration agent Mark 
Knight in Greenville.

"Officers find a lot of them when they respond to loud-music complaints," 
he said. "They show up on the scene and identify a meth lab."

A patrol officer recently found a lab inside a vehicle during a traffic 
stop, Knight said, and it's not unusual to see lab remnants strewn in the 
woods or along a road.

"People will find a mason jar filled with chemicals," he said, which can be 
a very dangerous find.

Last year, at least one Upstate firefighter was hurt at a lab blaze caused 
by explosive chemicals.

Social workers across the state, but especially in the Upstate, said they 
are beginning to see children whose lives are disrupted because parents and 
guardians are involved in meth labs or are addicted to the drug, Department 
of Social Services spokesman Jerry Adams said.

He ticked off a number of cases in recent months:

. Anderson County social workers are dealing with seven families in meth 
cases. All the parents had substance-abuse problems;

. Greenville County social workers reported two cases, saying meth use is 
common with clients;

. Cherokee County social workers said children have been removed from 
several homes because parents are operating meth labs;

. An Abbeville County social worker took a 3-year-old into protective 
custody after her mother was charged in a meth case;

. Spartanburg County social workers said they took a group of children into 
care after they discovered a meth lab.
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