Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s war on drugs got a boost with action by the full Council on Thursday in approving a state-administered grant to shut down crystal methamphetamine (“ice”) laboratories should they surface on Kaua’i.
At its meeting at the historic County Building, the council gave approval to the Kaua’i Police Department’s request to obtain and seek a $35,625 Byrne Grant.
The grant would be used for the training of a “clandestine laboratory response team,” hiring of two more officers, purchase of equipment and for programs to educate the public about dangers of the drug, Kaua’i Police Chief George Freitas Jr. told the council.
At the meeting, Freitas was accompanied by Detective Sgt. Michael Gordon, a vice and narcotics unit member and team leader for a “clandestine response” division of the police department.
The two new officers, if hired, would augment six other officers who are trained in the investigation of clandestine drug laboratories, the police officials reported.
Freitas said the department received information that ice laboratories may be operating on Kaua’i, but has yet to confirm their existence.
Gordon said he has heard of rumors of ice being cooked in garages of homes on the island, but “we haven’t found this situation yet.”
Freitas said department wants to be ready for the day the laboratories set up for operations, hence the need for the grant and more training for officers.
Freitas said laboratories, when they set up, will be located in remote spots of the island.
However, a trained team is already in place to respond when such laboratories are discovered, Freitas said.
“We have a group of officers to enter laboratories to stabilize situations and collect evidence and minimize hazards to them,” the police chief said.
The grant funds would help assemble a complement of officers to shut down laboratories when they surface, Freitas said.
Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said she supports efforts to fight drug use and applauded the police department for being “pre-emptive” in seeking additional funds to fight drug use.
The grant funds would be used to send officers to training on O’ahu and the mainland, Gordon said.
The ice that is found on Kaua’i is imported, “not the making of it here,” Freitas said.
Since that is the case, efforts perhaps should be directed as well to stopping the importation of ice to Kaua’i, Yukimura said.
Some of the ice that has made it to Kaua’i has been processed further, Freitas said.
Councilman Mel Rapozo, a retired police officer and detective, said that “ice is a huge problem,” on Kaua’i and that “everyday I speak to someone about it.”
Rapozo made a commitment to halt drug use and the spread of drugs during his successful bid for the council last year. He said an aggressive education program has to be launched to inform the public and parents about ice.
Rapozo said many parents don’t now what “it smells like” or “looks like,” and that they should be made aware of the drug’s characteristics so they can caution their children against using the drug.
The council almost didn’t take up the matter on ice houses and police anti-drug programs during the open meeting and had considered taking up the matter in an executive session.
Council members were concerned the discussions might touch on sensitive information that could compromise police operations.
“I just don’t want to do anything to weaken the war on drugs,”
said Yukimura, echoing the sentiments of other council members.
First deputy county attorney Amy Esaki said discussion of sensitive matters could be an issue, but Freitas said he didn’t mind talking about his department’s efforts to fight drug use as long as discussions on “specific tactics” didn’t come up.
Yukimura said that it seemed to her that the grant would be a crucial asset in the county’s war against drugs.
Freitas cautioned, however, that only smaller government grants may be available in the future as federal funds are being diverted for the war on global terrorism.
Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org