La Paz Chief Deputy County Attorney Karen Hobbs was honored by HIDTA for her work in behalf of drug endangered children.
The mission of the Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) is to facilitate, support, and enhance collaborative drug control efforts among law enforcement agencies. The HIDTA awards ceremony was held on July 15, 2014 at the 34th Annual Law Enforcement Pow Wow in Flagstaff, Arizona. Twelve individuals and agencies throughout the state received recognition for efforts in the fight against illegal drugs.
The La Paz County Attorney Tony Rogers said he considers drug abuse the biggest problem in the community. “We have drug crimes and then we have other crimes such as domestic violence and theft that spring as a direct result of the use of the illegal drugs.”
Rogers and Hobbs worked closely with HIDTA in sponsoring law enforcement training in May 2014 on drug endangered children. County Attorney Tony Rogers invited HIDTA Training Director Richard Rosky to provide a four-hour block of instruction of the recommended DEC protocols and investigative procedures for law enforcement and CPS response to children found in a drug environment. The County Attorney’s Office (CAO) identified the key stakeholders and invited La Paz County agencies. The La Paz County Sheriff’s Office provided the facility to house the training of approximately 50 individuals under the supervision of the La Paz County Narcotics Task force Commander, Lt. Curt Bagby.
Every law enforcement agency in La Paz County was represented at the training, along with public defenders, prosecutors, probation officers, Colorado River Indian Child Protective Services case workers, an Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) investigator, Arizona Child Protective Services (CPS) case workers, and a prevention specialist.
According to HIDTA spokesperson, Chief Deputy Hobbs was recognized because she “took to heart the recommendations for prosecuting parents that subject their children to a drug environment.” A drug case submitted to her for charging involved the parents of a young child who were addicted to and regularly using methamphetamine. These parents were subjecting their child to a dangerous drug environment and related criminal activity. In addition to charging appropriate felony drug charges, she charged both parents with what Rosky termed, “Custodial Dependency.” The statute, entitled Contributing to Delinquency and Dependency, makes it a class one misdemeanor offense to engage in certain behaviors that put a child at risk. Rosky said he believed this is the first time that statute was applied in a DEC case in Arizona. The child is now safe in the custody of another family member. Because the parents were charged with a crime against their child, the child was afforded statutorily mandated victims’ rights.
La Paz County Victim Advocate Lucero Gonzalez was pleased to be able to extend victims’ rights to the child of drug abusing parents. Gonzalez expressed strong concern for children of parents involved in the lifestyle associated with drug abuse. “The first consideration should be the child’s safety. These children are vulnerable. Who is going to protect them? When parents live for years under the influence of drugs, they have nothing positive to give to their child. Any child raised like that will suffer in many ways.” The child accompanied the custodian to visit Ms. Gonzalez at her office. The custodian said that the child who used to “very quiet and withdrawn, never stops smiling now.”
To inspire other investigators to be mindful of the children found in a drug environment, the CAO created the La Paz County DEC Award to recognize officers’ investigative efforts in DEC cases. During the DEC training event, Hobbs presented the first La Paz DEC Award to Lt. Curt Bagby, who conducted the follow-up investigative interviews that were critical to charging in the above noted case. La Paz County Sheriff’s Detective Steven Draper noted that the success of their team is due to support they get from Lt. Bagby. “It’s good that he should be the first recipient of the award,” Draper said.
Chief Deputy Hobbs has approached the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council (APAAC) with a request that the legislative committee review the existing contributory delinquency and dependence laws, A.R.S. §§ 13-3612 through 13-3614, and update the statutory language to better protect drug endangered children.