LIHUE — The Kauai Police Department has received over $70,000 in federal funds to aid the fight against drugs on the island.
That money comes from a Department of the Attorney General grant called the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant. It means KPD can participate in two projects, the Hawaii Narcotics Tax Force, or HNTF, and the Statewide Marijuana Eradication Tax Force, or SMETF, both of which work to reduce drug threats and drug-related crimes.
“It is part of an ongoing effort to combat illegal narcotics we see on daily basis,” said Bryson Ponce, assistant chief of KPD.
On Wednesday, Ponce and KPD Sgt. Kenneth Carvalho addressed the Kauai County Council, who approved the grant.
KPD received $40,747 to participate in SMETF, which not only will help KPD enforce medical marijuana laws but will also help the department control how medical marijuana gets to Kauai.
The goal of the program is to eradicate illegal marijuana in the state through cooperation and sharing of information, personnel and sources via outdoor eradication operations, indoor marijuana cultivation investigations, parcel investigations, undercover investigations and training programs, according to the grant application.
“There are only certain ways for these illicit drugs to end up on the island — it’s either the air or the barge,” Carvalho said. “So some of these funds will be used to help our employees get to the check points.”
According to the grant application, most marijuana on the island is being sent from California. Additionally, marijuana is the illegal drug most widely abused by Kauai teenagers and often acts as a gateway drug, leading abusers down a path toward using harder substances like cocaine and methamphetamine.
The eradication program will help KPD stop cultivation and also help police stop trafficking of drugs to Kauai, according to the application.
Mel Rapozo, council chair, said he supported the grant because it will help police get a handle on marijuana that is not being used legally.
“You have to realize marijuana is still a Schedule I drug. People tend to forget that and minimize the effects of marijuana,” he said.
An additional $31,433 was awarded to KPD to participate in HNTF, which focuses on all other drugs, Carvalho said.
“We have problems with crystal methamphetamine and heroin,” he said. “We are working really hard to cut these drugs coming to the island.”
By participating in HNTF, KPD hopes to disrupt the flow of narcotics by arresting distributors through inter-agency corporation, decreasing narcotic-related criminals and the number of drug trafficking organizations and added training for vice officers.
According to the grant application, KPD seized 2384.82 grams of crystal methamphetamine, which is up from previous years. For example, in 2014, just over 1,965 grams was seized. In 2013, 1,569.3 grams were seized and in 2012, 1,096.6 grams were seized.
In 2015, 46 people were arrested on drug-related search warrants and 237 cases were initiated. Over $45,081 worth of property — eight vehicles and four firearms — and $120,575 in U.S. currency was forfeited. Three local drug trafficking organizations were either dismantled or disrupted.
On Wednesday, Councilman Arthur Brun said he wished the county could allocate more money to fight the drug epidemic on the island.
“We have an issue here. It starts with marijuana,” he said. “No one in high school wakes up and says they want to do heroin today. It starts small with marijuana and alcohol. And that’s where we have to put our resources.”