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Missouri DARE program drums up interest with flashy cars

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | 10:02 p.m. CDT; updated 10:11 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Detective Shawn Hornbeck, center in a wig, of the Belton Police Department drives a DARE corvette onto the parking lot of the Holiday Inn for the Missouri DARE convention car show on Wednesday.

COLUMBIA — Nearly 20 police vehicles, lights flashing red and blue, sat in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Convention Center on Wednesday evening.

No arrests would be made.

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The vehicles were on display as part of the annual Missouri DARE Officers Association conference, which included presentations and additional training for officers involved in representing the DARE program — which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education — in schools throughout Missouri.

The Boone County Sheriff’s Department hosted the annual conference along with the Columbia ELKS Lodge #594, whose members sold concessions and offered pamphlets for parents during the car show.

Wednesday's collection included traditional patrol cars, SUVs and some slightly more flashy vehicles.

Patrolman A.C. Walker and Corporal Al Spencer, both of the Cape Girardeau Police Department, brought two cars donated to the department that the officers tricked out with the proceeds from seized drug money.

Upgrades to Walker’s white T-Top Camaro — which sat with its trunk up and doors open so attendees could peek inside — included a new stereo, lights and a siren. Spencer’s Ford Explorer SUV will eventually contain a 40-inch LCD TV with a Wii console.

“It’s a good conversation starter,” Walker said of her car, which she drives every day while on duty. “It’s like ‘Pimp My Police Ride.’ People are always asking, ‘Is that really a police car?’ They want to look at it.”

The DARE vehicles are meant to be attention-grabbers — rolling advertisements for a drug prevention program designed to appeal to students of all ages. On Wednesday, the vehicles were also meant to attract community members from Boone County so officers could meet the public and get feedback about the program.

Thunder and lightning sent attendees running for cover under available tents and also inside the fleet of vehicles. The sudden onset interrupted some activities, such as demonstrations with "drunk goggles."

The goggles, which simulate the eyesight of someone with a blood alcohol level between .07 and .1, are usually one of the biggest draws, said Joyce Wesseldine of the Columbia ELKS Lodge. Only a few people were able to try on the goggles before the demonstration tent was filled with attendees holding down its legs to keep it from being blown over in the wind.

After rain fell for 20 minutes and did not seem like it would soon stop, officers began to deconstruct tents and displays, cutting the show short.

Amanda Blank, the Region 5 Representative for Missouri DARE, said she felt that more would have arrived.

“I believe it really could have been a good turnout if the storm hadn’t started,” Blank said. “But that’s Missouri weather for you.”

Blank said next year's conference is expected to be held in Springfield.


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