KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Drug Enforcement Administration's Kansas City District Office began four new afterschool programs on Wednesday.
The effort is a part of the DEA’s new focus — Operation Engage.
The DEA partnered with the Missouri and Kansas Police Athletic leagues and their programs to reach communities with the greatest need, providing kids a free after school alternative to drugs through dance and martial arts.
The Kansas City area was selected by the DEA as one of 11 locations in the U.S. to address the nationwide threat posed by fentanyl and methamphetamine.
“This location was chosen because of the crime (and) the economic status of the community," Rogina Patterson-King, assistant special agent in-charge said. "And just like I said, to bring in resources to a community that sometimes get overlooked, to make sure they are equipped and raise up good boys and girls."
Matt Tomosic, with the Police Athletic League, said he's seen the need for this kind of partnership in the area.
“The one thing we don’t have in this neighborhood, is a shortage of kids looking for something positive and safe to do,” he said.
While the dance floor was moving, Patterson-King had her own set of steps for parents.
“To educate the public and let them know the danger of drugs and give something different for our young people to do,” she said.
Patterson-King warned drug traffickers are switching it up when it comes to how fentanyl could look.
“Rainbow fentanyl (can be) pink, purple,” she said. “We received information from other divisions that it looks like candy and it’s geared towards the youth.”
Christian Thomas attended the event on Wednesday and was alarmed after learning about rainbow fentanyl.
“That’s scary, you don’t have control when your kids are at school, (you) don’t know who they are talking to, what’s being passed, so it’s terrifying,” Thomas said.
Brittani Hanson said another issue is a lot of children aren't aware of the dangers of rainbow fentanyl.
“A lot of kids aren’t aware of what it is and what it could do,” Hanson said.
Patterson-King is hoping they take these conversations home.
“What to look for, what to expect,” said Amanda Oropeza, another parent.
While PAL is here to help guide them, the program also hopes to let them know there’s something better out there.
“By being there for them to let them know that somebody cares for them, somebody loves them, to help them become successful,” Tomasic said.
The KCK PAL will have a dance and a martial arts program, while the Missouri location will have two martial arts programs.
The schedule can be found below:
- Dance program — Wednesday, Aug. 31 at 4:30 p.m. at 800 N. 5th Street in KCK
- Martial arts — Friday, Sept. 2 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 800 N. 5th Street in KCK
- Martial arts — Thursday, Sept. 1 from 4 to 5 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. at 1801 White Avenue in KCMO