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MACE sees impact drugs have on children
Innocence lost
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“It’s shocking when we go and serve a search warrant at a house and they have a toddler walking around while a pile of marijuana is just sitting on top of the table, readily accessible,” said an agent with the Multi Agency Crack Enforcement (MACE) drug task force who asked that his name not be revealed to protect his identity.
“About two years ago, there was a case in Vidalia where a toddler got his hands on his mother's crack supply and he ingested it and died,” the officer said. “I had a 4-year-old ask me if I wanted to do a line of coke with her mother. In the meantime, her mother is sitting on the couch already in handcuffs.”
It was later discovered, he said, that same mother was also offering her, then 13-year-old daughter as a prostitute in exchange for drugs. The teen was an A-B student at a local middle school.
A look through police records indicates drug use among juveniles is not an isolated incident in the community.
Children and adolescents exposed to drugs at an early age are more likely to use drugs during their turbulent developing years, MACE  agents said.
Examples of children seemingly headed for trouble can be found in Liberty County, just like other places in the nation.
This past week, Midway Middle School was placed on a temporary lockdown after reports a student had carried a handgun on campus, according to the Liberty County Sheriff's Department.
The weapon turned out to be the butt stock, barrel and lever of a BB gun that was reportedly traded to another student to pay off a $10 debt.
Authorities questioned both juveniles and were informed one of them routinely sells BB guns, video games, watches and drugs at school.
The juvenile was reportedly found to have a notebook in his possession bearing gang graffiti, several watches, video games and $120 cash.
It was also noted the juvenile carried a cell phone where he stored pictures of guns and games he would try and sell. Both juveniles were taken to a youth detention facility.
To deter crime on campus, MACE provides safety searches to schools within their jurisdiction. For the fiscal year of 2005-2006, MACE conducted two school searches in Hinesville, two in Liberty County and two in Long.
Before the beginning of every school year, MACE sends out a memo to every school principal within the jurisdiction informing them of the service they can provide.
“We can’t arbitrarily go on the school’s property and conduct a search,” MACE Unit Commander Al Cato said. “We offer the schools a service. Whether they choose to use the service is totally up to the school and the administration of that school. Some schools would prefer we come every week, but others elect to not have us come around at all.”
When a search is conducted, MACE agents, along with K-9 units from Liberty and Chatham counties, check each room of the school, including the offices.
“There are absolutely no hands on the students, but we ask them to clean out their pockets and we may search for weapons by using a wand,” Cato said.
“You would not believe some of the places students will try and hide the drugs they are carrying,” the unidentified agent said.
The school safety searches are conducted only at middle and high schools.
Drugs are currently more prevalent at high-schools, the agents said.
They noted when juveniles are found in possession of drugs, they are arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They also face disciplinary action by the school administration and school tribunals.
There are, however, a few juveniles who are already on MACE’s repeat offenders list. Their drugs of choice, CATO said, are marijuana followed by prescription drugs that are usually taken from their parents.
The issue of drugs at school is only part of the problem. Drugs at home increases the chance of abuse, the agents said.
“We make our arrests and we do our part and then we have to call in the Department of Family and Children Services to deal with the children that are left behind,” the unidentified agent said.
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