KPD: Drug epidemic is reflected in school arrests

A Kaua’i Police Department in-school officer has made about 100 substance abuse arrests at Kapa’a High School in less than one year, with many of the arrests drug-related.

Some 75 percent of the arrests were of ninth graders.

Kaua’i Police Department School Resource Officer Mark Ozaki and others spoke out about the drug abuse situation in the Kawaihau District at a meeting on the problem held at Kapa’a Elementary School Thursday.

Vice Officers Darla Abbatiello, Paddy Ramson, and Ale Quibilan displayed drugs and paraphernalia at the meeting. They answered questions about what the KPD can and cannot do in regards to neighborhood drug busts.

Abbatiello, the first female officer in KPD’s Vice Narcotics Section, said that she’s been in the unit for five months, and “every crime I go to is drug-related now.” The others agreed.

Of the four most popular drugs, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana, she said meth is the favorite because it’s cheap, easy to hide and its effects last about three days or more. She said that marijuana is used by ice users to “crash,” and that coke and heroin are nowhere near as popular.

Ozaki said because of the high percentage of ninth graders arrested he thinks their is a problem at the middle school level.

“Something happens in three years,” he said of the time Kapa’a students spend in Kapa’a Middle School after leaving Kapa’a Elementary School. He suggested that more policing needs to be done at the middle school.

Ozaki has been stationed at Kapa’a High School since April 2002.

He told the gathering, which was sponsored by the Kawaihau District Leadership Coalition, that most drugs confiscated at the East Kaua’i high school were marijuana because of the drug’s tell-tale smell.

The KPD officer said he finds it difficult to detect use or possession of “ice” (crystal methamphetamine) because when the drug is smoked it’s odorless, and ice can be hidden more easily as packets of the powdery drug carried by users are so small.

At the drug-awareness meeting for parents, Kaua’i Police Department officers spoke about what can, and cannot, be done to fight drug abuse, and what the public should do if they find drugs.

The meeting drew an audience of about 25 and was held at Kapa’a Elementary School. It featured reports on anti-drug abuse action from Mayor Bryan Baptiste, the county prosecutor’s office, KPD and the County Council.

Ozaki said his job at the high school includes law enforcement, counseling and law enforcement presentations, though much of his time is spent arresting students.

Deputy County Prosecutor David Rawlings said that he and fellow prosecutor Aaron Kakinami are assigned five days a week to Kapa’a High School as part of the Community Based Prosecution Program. The federally-funded program’s goal is to decrease crime and increase conviction rates of users and dealers of illicit drugs, as well as other types of criminals. Kapa’a High School was chosen as a “target area” based on crime records and prosecutor’s office investigations in the Kawaihau District that Kapa’a is part of, Rawlings said.

“Mr. Kakinami and I have encountered either apathy or resignation the community at large may be a bit naive to how profound the problem is,” Rawlings said. He said they distributed surveys about the drug problem to 80 administrators and faculty, and received 13 responses. “We have to try to increase the knowledge of the danger of the drug,” Rawlings ended.

Effects of ice

A computer slideshow on the effects of drugs detailed that crystal meth causes violent behavior, psychotic episodes, depression, visual and auditory hallucinations and memory lapses. Besides the effects to the brain and central nervous system, people also experience loss of appetite and sudden weight loss, severe acne, skin problems and extreme body temperature.

“Nobody has the right to poison our children, nobody has the right to break up our families, nobody has the right to ruin the life of another human being all for the sake of profit,” said Baptiste.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how good of parents we are. Once taken, it changes their life entirely,” he said.

He repeated his mantra of “everyone can do something.” He asked the police department to show a drug awareness presentation on Kaua’i’s public access television network Ho’ike. “If the people aren’t going to come to us, we need to get this to the people,” he said.

“Since the late 80s, what have we done-nothing except say it’s a problem,” said Councilman Mel Rapozo, who added that drug dealers belong in prison and that the mayor is brave in committing to taking action and hiring a drug coordinator.

“A lot of people in Kilauea think the cops are in it – people can’t understand that concept,” said Meta Zimmerman, a Kilauea resident. “We need a ‘how-to’ list so we know what to do,” said Maile Bryant, another Kilauea woman who said that three young men in her family have already been affected by batu, and such drug use has resulted in a suicide.

Hands tied

Officers Ramson and Quibilan noted that the hands of Hawai’i police officers are often tied. They said that the Hawai’i State Constitution makes Hawai’i the only state in which officers are not allowed to do a “knock and talk.” This means that citizens can report suspicious behavior, but police can’t make a drug arrest without first obtaining a search warrant with evidence to back it up.

Police get search warrants and subsequently make arrests by using confidential informants, who use police cash to buy drugs from a suspected dealer, by running license plate numbers and getting names of people who come and go.

Police said that a concerned citizen who wants to help the police should set up a private interview with the Vice Narcotics Unit at 241-1878.

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

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