CINCINNATI — A potential killer that agents believe targets children pulled the Drug Enforcement Agency's regional leader to Cincinnati on Wednesday.
Special Agent Orville Greene said the strategy to counteract counterfeit pills, fentanyl and other narcotics trafficking requires them to raise more awareness.
"They're not the kind of people you think about with an addiction or lifelong addiction issue," Greene said. "These are college age kids, young people in college who are looking to get an Adderall to study harder, to be more productive in school and are inadvertently overdosing."
Agents increasingly see drugs dealt on laptops, phones and tablets, which troubles April Babcock and Virginia Krieger.
"The only reason parents even know their kids even tried the drug is because they're finding them dead in their bedrooms," Babcock said. "They can get right on Snapchat now and order drugs like pizza. It's not normal."
Krieger wants people to know the biggest risk to their child is every time they walk out that door to meet their friends, and the chance they are influenced to try a pill or a drug.
"Even if it's the first time in their life, they're at risk to die," Krieger said. "We have to get that across."
Babcock and Krieger's pain is still fresh. Krieger lost her daughter, Tiffany, seven years ago. Three years later, Babcock's son died. Fentanyl killed both.
"They were first deceived then poisoned," Krieger said. "My daughter was given a pill which was very deliberately made to mimic a trademarked pharmaceutical product that we call percocet."
It is a trend with people duped in illicit drug sales that triggered renewed warnings from the DEA.
"Your kid could be on social media in their bedroom where you think they're safe ordering an illicit pill that's ultimately going to lead to an overdose and to them being killed," Greene said.
Traffickers for Mexican drug cartels market online and social media. Agents see Rainbow Fentanyl, multi-colored pills, in seizures across the country and in the Tri-State. Some think the different colors indicate different qualities of drugs, Greene said. However, DEA lab tests found this untrue. Without citing a specific case, Greene said the DEA has a theory.
"We view this as the traffickers way of reaching a new demographic, which is targeting young adults and children," he said.
Greene is making media rounds in every Michigan, Ohio and Northern Kentucky field office because his team wants help. Green said while agents track traffickers' digital footprints, surge resources to areas where crime and overdose data show problems and team with regional police to identify criminal organizations, 300 victims die each day on average in the U.S.
"The fact that overdoses have increased the past two years just says to me there's a real problem on the street," Katie Renfrow said.
Renfrow's son, Sam, died from a fentanyl/heroin overdose in 2017.
"We are burying 12-year-olds," Krieger said. "We just buried a 10-year-old."
Babcock is calling for a COVID-like response to fentanyl poisoning.
"Within three months of COVID-19, every American knew social distance, wash our hands, wear a mask," Babcock said. "We're almost 10 years deep into a fentanyl crisis and we still have no public awareness campaign."
Babcock and Krieger lead "Lost Voices of Fentanyl," an awareness group with more than 19,000 grieving people who plan to rally outside the nation's capital this weekend to keep the issue fresh in the minds of everyone they meet.