LIHUE — Because Kauai is a small community, Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said it’s easy to know where the drug houses are, but it’s equally as difficult to build a case against a drug trafficking ring.
“Everybody knows everybody and everybody knows who the cops are, that’s going to take a long time to do,” he said Monday.
The County of Kauai recently presented a series of islandwide meetings aimed at informing and providing safety meetings to the public.
On Kauai, since April, eight drug houses have been shut down thanks to the Drug Nuisance Abatement Unit, a special investigations unit housed in the office of the prosecuting attorney.
The program, funded by a grant from the Attorney General’s Office, has seen success on the Big Island, Kollar said, so last year, his office applied for and was awarded funding for the program on Kauai.
With affidavits from witnesses and law enforcement, the house can be shut down by a pre-trial injunction without having to wait for an arrest to be made or a trial.
“So it really allows us to move very quickly,” Kollar said.
The unit, he said, consists of a senior deputy prosecutor, a clerk and full-time investigator.
Most of the time, Kollar said, all they have to do to solve the problem is write a letter to the property’s landlord stating there’s an issue and they’ll evict the tenants. In cases where the landowner is one of the suspected drug dealers, he said, that’s when they have to get a court order to shut down the house.
There’s nothing that bothers him more, Kollar said, than coming home from work and hearing your neighbors shouting at all hours of the night and seeing strange cars drive up and down your street and seeing your neighbors having items stolen from their car ports.
“But this process, so far, in the short amount of time we’ve been using it, has really increased the quality of life of folks in communities that are affected by these types of properties,” Kollar said.
Kauai Police Department Sgt. Lance Okasaki said neighborhood watch groups are a great way for community members to keep an eye on crime.
“Neighborhood watch, in a nutshell, basically, you guys all looking out for each other,” he said. “The idea behind neighborhood watch is basically, we teach you guys what we as law enforcement are looking for.”
That includes description of cars and people, Okasaki said.
Law enforcement, he said, wants to encourage community members to report anything suspicious.
“If we see a hand-out, a drug deal, maybe it’s nothing, maybe, you guys have seen enough of it, it sparks something and wants you guys to report the description of him,” he said.
The other thing about neighborhood watch, he said, is getting to know each other.
“We’re one ohana here, one big community. The more invested I am in you, the more you are in me, makes the whole area safer,” he said.