Freitas: State drug laws need tightening

NAWILIWILI — The island’s war on drugs needs federal agents on Kauai because state laws prohibit Kauai Police Department officers from effectively doing their jobs, KPD Chief George Freitas told a gathering of the Lihue Business Association Thursday morning.

The state constitution guarantees privacy, effectively prohibiting county police officers from questioning suspected drug dealers at Lihue Airport and other public areas, Freitas said.

State courts have supported the constitution with case law that essentially takes away some police powers, he said.

For that reason, he said, Kauai needs the presence of federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who, armed with federal laws, can conduct investigations with authority that supersedes state constitutional protections.

The time is now to start a discussion about rampant crime and the need for reform of state laws, he added.

Participation in the federal Weed and Seed program requires the presence of federal law officers, said Roy Nishida, county drug program specialist.

Kauai is the only county without on-island DEA or FBI agents, and both KPD officials and the community have expressed the need for federal help, Nishida told around 25 people at the LBA meeting held at Aromas restaurant in Harbor Mall in Nawiliwili.

Nishida said Mayor Bryan Baptiste has discussed the issue with U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and that there is a chance the island will get two DEA agents.

Armed with information from five of the mayor’s drug summits held around the island, Nishida said community involvement and education are the keys to winning the drug war.

“If we don’t have community support, we probably will never resolve the drug problem,” Nishida said. “The community is the most important” aspect in the war on drugs, he added.

There is support for the island’s war on drugs from Gov. Linda Lingle, the Legislature and the mayors of other counties, said Nishida.

He said needs brought up at the drug summits included:

  • “A big problem” is the lack of a residential drug-treatment center on the island, either for adults or youth. That means those needing drug treatment have to go to Oahu, adding travel costs to treatment costs. On Oahu Kauaians compete against Oahu’s larger population for the finite space in drug-treatment centers;
  • This island lacks a residential transition center, where those moving out of incarceration and back into society could find drug-free environments, learn employable job skills, and get drug counseling and other forms of positive support needed to become productive citizens. Former drug users right out of jail say if they don’t get this kind of help, they’ll likely stray back to familiar areas and familiar habits, and back to using drugs. For some, the transition takes between six and 12 months. Those who have been able to do it on their own, without governmental assistance, have strong family support systems;
  • In-school and out-school programs are needed, to teach family values and life skills. Some inmates at Kauai Community Correctional Center told the Kapaa audience that they got into drugs because there wasn’t anything else to do on the island;
  • A federal law-enforcement presence;
  • While the Kauai Bus is an efficient system during the hours it operates, transportation still is a problem for some youngsters, especially those whose parents both work, and oftentimes work more than one job apiece;
  • Community education is another need. “The kids know more about what the drugs look like, how to smoke it, than the parents, and adults often don’t recognize drug use at their workplace.

Nishida said he is working with representatives of hotels and other large employers to offer drug-education and drug-awareness programs.

Freitas said that having the facilities to treat those with addictions is a need, but warned that everyone will need the stamina to continue the fight, and that victories will be few and need to be celebrated, because the defeats will be many.

Sgt. Danilo “Danny” Abadilla of the KPD’s narcotics and vice unit, said business people who don’t think twice about people coming in and paying large amounts of cash for consumer items, or making large deposits at local banks, are helping illegal drug dealers continue their operations.

The business people know who these drug dealers are, but aren’t calling him, he said. “We gotta attack them at the business end. That’s why we’re here,” Abadilla said. “We need your help.”

Drug dealers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and police efforts to confront dealers at the drug-dealing end haven’t been too successful, he said.

Nishida said there are activities for youth, but transportation is sometimes a problem. Efforts are underway to take back the schools, encouraging students to get along with all their peers, and along the way build self-esteem, he said.

“They want a place to go,” Freitas said of the island’s young people. He suggested a drug-free, alcohol-free gathering place, maybe Lydgate Park, where activities can be planned specifically for teens, and adults can be there for support.

Nishida said if the youngsters don’t plan the event themselves, they won’t attend.

Attorney and former councilman Richard Minatoya, said a juvenile drug court is needed, and parents need to be involved too. Oftentimes, youngsters get their drugs from their parents, he said.

Barbara Bennett, This Week Kauai magazine manager, said every business should install a drug-testing program.

John Sydney Yamane, owner of the Hawaii Link Internet service, said laws are needed to make drug-dealing business people uncomfortable.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at or 245-3681 (ext. 224).


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