I am William Bodner, Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division and I’d like to welcome you to Operation Engage!
As we all know, there are far too many non-fatal and fatal drug overdoses affecting our communities, and sadly, these numbers are increasing. In response, DEA has moved toward community-level collaborative efforts to help reduce these numbers through education and awareness, using our wide range of resources.
Through Operation Engage, our division will focus on Southern California, targeting the fentanyl drug threat. Other components of Operation Engage include:
- Stakeholder/Community Gatherings: To share the latest information about drug trends, drug threats, and other related pertinent information.
- The DEA’s Citizens Academy: DEA recognizes the importance of forging strong alliances with local communities and maintaining collaborative relationships with community leaders. The DEA’s Citizens Academy offers participants the opportunity to understand the world of federal drug law enforcement and the important role the DEA and the community together, play in combating drug trafficking, drug misuse, and related violence.
- Youth Engagement: Through programs like the DEA Educational Foundation Youth Dance Program and in collaboration with CADCA and the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, children of all ages will be able to actively participate in age-appropriate activities, designed for them to learn and gain the most knowledge about the dangers of drugs in a fun way.
- Community Outreach Programs: DEA, along with stakeholder involvement, will concentrate efforts in the communities most affected by fentanyl use. In those targeted communities, the Los Angeles Field Division will participate in facilitating prevention strategies to include, but not limited to, drug prevention training and technical assistance for communities, coalition outreach, and prescription drug take back events to name a few.
These are only a few of the many resources and opportunities we have available to share with our communities.
I invite you, and your families, to explore our Operation Engage webpage to learn about the many resources we have available. Learning as a family, early on, is the first step in avoiding drug experimentation, drug misuse, drug addiction, and all related behaviors that are plaguing our communities.
Always at your service,
Local DEA officials have identified fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, as the area's top drug threat.
In California, there were over 3,200 opioid-related deaths in 2019. Approximately half were due to fentanyl.
Learn more about how the opioid epidemic is affecting specific counties in Southern California on the California Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard.
Los Angeles County
- All drug-caused deaths in 2020: 2,357 (a 63% increase from 2019)
- Those involving fentanyl in 2020: 1,173 (50% of total)
- All drug-caused deaths from January through April 2021: 827
- Those involving fentanyl from January through April 2021: 454 (55% of total)
- All drug-caused deaths in 2020: 667 (a 46% increase from 2019)
- Those involving fentanyl in 2020: 279 (42% of total)
- All drug-caused deaths from January through April 2021: 231
- Those involving fentanyl from January through April 2021: 116 (50% of total)
According to an article by National Institute of Justice, violent crimes wreak a terrible impact not only on individual victims, their families, and friends but also on nearby residents and the fabric of their neighborhoods. Exposure to violent crime can damage people’s health and development, and violence can push communities into vicious circles of decay.”
The rates of violent crime in the United States have declined significantly over the past 20 years. Disadvantaged neighborhoods have experienced larger drops in crime, although significant disparities persist. However, in Los Angeles although crime statistics report an overall downward trend in crime based on data from 21 years with violent crime decreasing and property crime decreasing. The city violent crime rate for Los Angeles in 2019 was higher than the national violent crime rate average by 92.97% and the city property crime rate in Los Angeles was higher than the national property crime rate average by 12.96%.
In 2019 the city violent crime rate in Los Angeles was higher than the violent crime rate in California by 65.94% and the city property crime rate in Los Angeles was higher than the property crime rate in California but only by 2.24%.
Through Operation Engage, the LAFD plans to implement and deliver programming in several hot spots within LA County and Riverside County to create awareness and educate on drug trends, current threats and support local substance abuse prevention efforts. Together, we will emphasize prevention efforts among youth through mentorship, leadership development, and training parents on trauma informed and removing the stigma of mental health. We will focus on high risk, high crime and high drug usage cities within both counties.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl is also diverted for abuse.
Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin.
Many fake pills, created to look to legitimate prescription medication, contain dangerous and sometimes deadly amounts of fentanyl.
Check out our new factsheet to learn more about counterfeit pills.
One Pill Can Kill
The Drug Enforcement Administration warns the American public of the
alarming increase in the lethality and availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine. International and domestic criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills, falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills, and killing unsuspecting Americans.
These counterfeit pills are easy to purchase, widely available, and often contain deadly doses of fentanyl. Pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal, dangerous, and potentially lethal. This alert does not apply to legitimate pharmaceutical medications prescribed by medical professionals and dispensed by pharmacists. Read more.
See Related: Check out this Counterfeit Pills factsheet.
In the News
(National Family Partnership) Enrique (Kiki) S. Camarena was born on July 26, 1947, in Mexicali, Mexico. He graduated from Calexico High School in Calexico, California in 1966, and in 1968 he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. After serving in the Marine Corps for two years, Kiki was a Calexico fireman, Calexico police officer, and an Imperial County Deputy Sheriff. Kiki joined the Drug Enforcement Administration in June of 1974. His first assignment as a Special Agent with DEA was in a familiar place - Calexico, California.
In 1977, after three years in Calexico, 37-year-old Kiki was reassigned to the Fresno District Office in Northern California. Four years later, Kiki received transfer orders to Mexico, where he would work out of the Guadalajara Resident Office. For more than four years in Mexico, Kiki remained on the trail of the country's biggest marijuana and cocaine traffickers. In early 1985, he was extremely close to unlocking a multi-billion-dollar drug pipeline. However, before he was able to expose the drug trafficking operations to the public, he was kidnapped on February 7, 1985. On that fateful day, while headed to a luncheon with his wife, Mika, Kiki was surrounded by five armed men who threw him into a car and sped away. That was the last time anyone, but his kidnappers would see him alive.
In honor of Camarena’s memory and his battle against illegal drugs, friends and neighbors began to wear red badges of satin. Parents, sick of the destruction of alcohol and other drugs, had begun forming coalitions. Some of these new coalitions embraced Camarena’s belief that one person can make a difference. These coalitions also adopted the symbol of Camarena’s memory, the red ribbon. During his 11 years with DEA, Kiki received two Sustained Superior Performance Awards, a Special Achievement Award and, posthumously, the Administrator’s Award of Honor, the highest award granted by DEA.
In 1988, NFP sponsored the first National Red Ribbon Celebration. Today, the Red Ribbon serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities. Since that time, the campaign has reached millions of U.S. children and families. The National Family Partnership (NFP) and its network of individuals and organizations continue to deliver his message of hope to millions of people every year, through the National Red Ribbon Campaign™. Today, NFP hosts the annual Enrique Camarena Award, an award given to an individual who believes and understands the power of the individual voice to reach and influence the larger community for drug prevention.
Katie Nuñez Vasquez is the 2023 Enrique Camarena Award Recipient. Katie is a student activist and community leader in Santa Barbara, California. Katie has led incredible work in the field and drug prevention system. As a young leader, Katie focuses on using her voice in policy change and educating her peers. Katie played a pivotal role in passing the Off-State Alcohol Ordinance, a policy that reduces underage alcohol access for minors, minimizes alcohol advertising to youth, holds liquor stores accountable, and eliminates alcohol mini bottles. Katie made sure to use her voice to speak with the Santa Barbara Officials about the importance of mitigating the normalization of alcohol in Santa Barbra and shared proposals to further prevent underage drinking in the County. Katie takes tangible actions to improve the well-being of her peers and community. Furthermore, Katie has led two (2) national drug-prevention campaigns for three (3) years: National Prevention Week and Red Ribbon Week. For Red
Ribbon Week, she facilitated Plant the Promise and over 30+ youth sign pledges. Both activities encouraged her peers to commit to raising awareness, have a drug-free lifestyle, and help others learn about the importance of staying healthy and drug-free.
NFP had the pleasure of interviewing Katie to learn more about her outstanding commitment to her community.
NFP: What made you get into community work and drug-free prevention?
K: The need for advocacy work in my community is what drew me into advocating. Coming from a Hispanic background, alcohol isn’t foreign to us. I remember one of the first projects I worked on dealt with drug free prevention. I along with peers obtained data necessary to explain the rise in substance usage in Santa Barbara. The survey contained questions about whether one believed Santa Barbara was turning into a drunk zone. Taking a walk-through state street is a clear indicator that it is. Future Leaders of America, a non-profit organization I’m a part of, is working towards pushing an end to off-site alcohol sales after midnight. The positive effects of projects such as these is what motivates me to continue to advocate.
NFP: Do you enjoy working in the community? Do you involve your peers?
K: I have come to find myself dedicating my time to advocate for my community. In the beginning I saw it as an opportunity to improve my college application but as time passed, I have come to grow a passion for it. FLA has truly helped me discover this part of me that I never thought I had. FLA has pushed me out of my comfort zone, encouraged me, and has made me see the impact I can do as a teen in my community. Advocacy work is not a solo project. It requires a team who is just as passionate and willing to do all the small and big things. Becoming a part of the student council it’s my role to push my peers out of their comfort zone to advocate as well.
Congratulations to Ms. Katie Nuñez Vasquez for being the recipient of the 2023 Enrique Camarena Award. It is leaders like yourself that encourage young individuals to live healthy and Drug-Free. Let’s continue to make America Drug-Free!
If you know someone who is an outstanding contributor to the field of drug prevention in your community, you may nominate them by completing the Enrique Camarena award form located inside the School Planning Guide. You can download it at www.redribbon.org/downloads/.
Red Ribbon Week takes place each year from October 23rd through 31st. We invite you to join us by getting involved. Learn more about the contest and the campaign by visiting www.RedRibbon.org.
About the National Family Partnership
The National Family Partnership was established in 1980 and is a national leader in drug prevention, education, and advocacy. Its mission is to educate families, and to help kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free, through the promotion of two national campaigns: Red Ribbon Week® and the Lock Your Meds® campaign for prescription drug abuse awareness. Learn more about Red Ribbon Week at www.RedRibbon.org, Lock Your Meds at www.LockYourMeds.org and NFP at www.nfp.org.
Check out this list of local organizations that provide services to the public regarding addiction, community empowerment, drug education and prevention, drug take back programs, recovery, and overall health and wellness.
Certified Peer Support Specialist Program
DEA Youth Dance Program
Latino Prevention Project California Hispanic Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, INC.
Los Angeles County, Department of Public Health
San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health
Social Model Recovery
Tarzana Treatment Centers: Antelope Valley Marijuana Alcohol and Pharmaceutical
Prevention Coalition (AVMAPP)
Here is a list of our local Operation Engage partners.
Los Angeles County, Department of Public Health
Los Angeles Sparks
Mentor Foundation USA
Safe Med LA Coalition
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Senator Melendez Office-Riverside
Tarzana Treatment Centers
United States Attorney’s Office | Central District of California
Looking for local prevention resources specifically for young people? Check out this list below:
Day One trains middle school, high school, and college students to be positive role models, ambassadors for healthy lifestyles, and informed and engaged members of their communities.
Based on the social influence model, which has been determined by CSAP, NIDA, OJJDP, US Department of Education as an effective prevention approach, youth are educated about
public and community health issues - such as understanding the health impacts of poor diet, alcohol/drug use, and sedentary lifestyles - and how to effect positive, lasting change in their
communities. Our program also covers techniques to resist social pressures, support others in making healthy choices, and determining positive alternatives.
Day One Pasadena Youth Advocate Program
Meets every Wednesday at 4 pm
bit.ly/DayOneYA (case sensitive)
Instagram Account: @day1do
Day One Pomona Youth Advocate Program
Meets every Wednesday at 4 pm
Instagram Account: @dopomona
Day One El Monte Youth Advocate Program
Meets every Wednesday at 4 pm
Instagram Account: @dopomona
Campus Drug Prevention (DEA's website for colleges and universities)
Get Smart About Drugs (DEA's website for parents, caregivers, and educators)
Just Think Twice (DEA's website for teens)
Operation Prevention (DEA's website on opioid misuse prevention in schools)
2022 Drugs of Abuse (Clear, scientific information about drugs delivered in a factual, straightforward way)
I Am a Force for Change (prevention manual for advocates)
Go to FindTreatment.gov to search for general drug treatment facilities in your area. On this site, you can find facilities that offer various payment options (including free and no-cost care), youth treatment facilities, special programs for Veterans, plus more.
Otherwise, enter your zipcode below to find substance abuse treatment facilities in your area.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist that rapidly binds to opioid receptors, blocking heroin from activating them. An appropriate dose of naloxone acts in less than 2 minutes and completely eliminates all signs of opioid intoxication to reverse an opioid overdose.
Finding Naloxone in LA
Due to the statewide standing order, Californians can get naloxone without a prescription at pharmacies across the state.
See where you can find the anti-overdose drug here.
Date: Thursdays, January - June
Time: 10:00 - 11:30am
Where: Zoom (registration link below)
BHS Prevention presents: Growing Prevention: United Mental Health Promoters. Topics will include mental health & stigma, drug & alcohol prevention, and suicide prevention. To register, scan the QR code above or visit https://bit.ly/GPUMHP. Email Erica Winston at email@example.com for more information.
The Fundamentals of Fatherhood Program is accepting Fathers, Father figures, and Expecting Fathers for our Nurturing Fathers Curriculum cohorts in English and Spanish. The classes are FREE, and held online via zoom.
Participants must complete enrollment in-person. The group is located at the Ron Arias Health Equity Center at 6335 Myrtle Ave., Long Beach, CA 90805. If you have any questions or to enroll, please contact Mr. Arles A. Benavides via phone at 562-570-3285, via e-mail at Arles.Benavides@longbeach.gov or visit our website www.longbeach.gov/fatherhood and click on the 'Enroll Now' button to submit your contact information.
When: These classes (cohorts) are year-round. They start cohorts every month.
Time: 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. PST
Food is a basic need. For many people who turn to substance misuse, one of the main concerns is dealing with stress factors such as lack of food.
L.A. County has the resources to help. Find out where you or your family can get free food near you.
Date: April 4, April 6, April 13, April 27, May 4
Where: Virtual - Zoom session, register below
Learn about prevention as it pertains to methamphetamines, marijuana, opioids and fentanyl, tobacco, and alcohol in this five-part Zoom series. Register by scanning the QR code or visiting the mobile link above or visiting the following link: Meeting Registration - Zoom. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
"Together at Home" DEA Youth Dance Program
During the pandemic, the DEA Youth Dance Program didn't miss a beat. Instructors continued to teach classes virtually to young people across the nation, providing them a healthy activity to express their creativity throughout a challenging time.
Visit the site below to learn more about the program: https://www.deaeducationalfoundation.org/youth-dance-program
Connect With Us!
Sign up for email updates about Southern California's Operation Engage Initiative.
Stay up to date with the Operation Engage initiative in Los Angeles by following: DEA Los Angeles Twitter account @DEALOSANGELES, and the hashtags:
#OpEngageSoCal and #EngagewithSoCal
Please DO NOT submit tips using the feedback form on this page.
Use the official tips page (https://www.dea.gov/submit-tip) to report what appears to you as a possible violation of controlled substances laws and regulations.
Tips submitted to the feedback form below WILL NOT be addressed.
DEA. 16 December, 2020. Operation Engage Southern California. Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/engage/operation-engage-southern-california on 24 March, 2023
DEA. "Operation Engage Southern California."Drug Enforcement Agency, 16 December, 2020, https://www.dea.gov/engage/operation-engage-southern-california Accessed 24 March, 2023.
DEA. . Drug Enforcement Agency on DEA website. https://www.dea.gov/engage/operation-engage-southern-california. 16 December, 2020. Accessed 24 March, 2023.