Feds helping KPD in fight against ice

The Kaua’i Police Department is using a new federal computer communications system that has the power to track drug offenders and suspects throughout the United States.

Larry Burnett, director of the Hawaii High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, presented a series of crime statistics related to the increasing drug problem in Hawai’i, in particular, crystal methamphetamine – often called “ice” or “batu.” The monthly police commission meeting was held Friday afternoon in the Historic County Building.

Burnett said the goal is to reduce drug-related crime in Hawai’i by 10 percent in two years; by 25 percent in five years. A statewide $2.5 million grant will go toward programs to achieve that goal. The KPD is eligible for about $90,000 for training and specific drug operations.

Burnett has 30 years of experience in federal law enforcement, including serving as Agent in Charge of the U.S. Customs Service for Hawai’i and Pacific U.S. Territories.

Hawai’i ranks 43 out of 50 states in population, but is No. 6 in the country for total crimes and No. 2 in property crimes, including burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft and break-ins according to the 2001 Uniform Crime Statistics from the Crime Prevention Bureau, State Attorney General’s office.

Burnett added that more than 90 percent of 2,300 confirmed child abuse cases in the state last year were related to ice use. Some 44 percent of homicide cases were also ice-related. Also, information from the U.S. Department of Justice showed that 40 percent of all men arrested by the Honolulu Police Department tested positive for the drug.

The KPD’s own stats showed that during the month of October, more crystal meth was seized than cocaine, 36.7 grams to 3.3 grams. The KPD vice section cleared all 15 cases referred during October.

Partnership in the HIDTA is allowing more resources to flow to Kaua’i in the fight against the drug, Freitas said.

“I think the key is a wider pool of experts available to us to put together operations,” Freitas said.

“The mission of the Hawai’i HIDTA is to measurably reduce drug trafficking, thereby reducing the impact of illicit drugs and increasing citizen safety in Hawaii and other areas of the country. The Hawai’i HIDTA develops and implements comprehensive and coordinated intelligence, interdiction, investigative and prosecutive initiatives to deter, disrupt, dismantle and ultimately destroy drug trafficking organizations in the state,” reports the HIDTA Web site.

Hawai’i is one of 33 HIDTAs and United States-Mexico border partnerships in the country. The Hawai’i HIDTA headquarters opened in 1999 in Honolulu, with KPD as a partner since the beginning.

Local, state and federal agencies are equal partners in each HIDTA, and access to arrest records of suspects and undercover officers are just two networking possibilities. Agencies of law enforcement, health and prevention and education are all involved.

Coordinated intelligence and communications comes in through the Western States Information Network, a computer database developed to link participating law enforcement agencies to share information about people in custody or drug suspects.

One problem in current law enforcement techniques, outside of the HIDTA, is that Kaua’i does not have a permanent federal law enforcement office.

Current state law does not allow local police to build a case in connection with incidents in other states without federal authority. Under this federally-sponsored HIDTA program, the authority would be given to the officers and members of the prosecutors office may receive federal authority to forward criminal charges.

Assigning officers as an HIDTA representatives would possibly limit street time with the KPD but would have far-reaching impact, according to Freitas. Already several officers from the vice section have been trained in using the computer software.

“For the first time, we’re really linking systems together,” Freitas said.

On the Web: http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/hidta

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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