Pubdate: Mon, 02 Nov 2009
Source: Honolulu Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2009 The Honolulu Advertiser
Author: Eloise Aguiar


Community Gears Up To Counteract Resurgent Problem

KAHALU'U - A nagging narcotics problem has renewed residents focus on
protecting the community and this time people are working toward a
sustainable solution, including clearing areas where known drug
activities take place and forming neighborhood policing groups.

Six years after a massive campaign to oust drug users from the
community, residents are seeing a resurgence that includes threats to
local residents by drug users, a growing list of cars reportedly
involved with drug deals and a move of these drug activities to the
new Kahaluu District Park where children play.

"The park was supposed to be a blessing for our community, but it's a
headache," said Keith Ryder, pastor for Light of Promise Ministries.
"We know these people but by being silent we allowed it to happen."

Led by Art Machado, a Kahaluu Neighborhood Board member, about two
dozen other residents, community leaders, government officials and
local pastors met Wednesday at KEY Project to discuss actions that
they can take.

The Honolulu Police Department receives about 50 drug-related
complaints a month with Kahaluu getting one or two complaints a month,
said Michelle Yu, HPD spokeswoman. The problem is continuing, and
police have made several arrests in Kahaluu recently, Yu said.

"It's a coordinated effort between patrol and narco-unit officers,"
she said. "They are continuing to work with the property owners, the
residents and the stakeholders."

Machado has collected a list of 25 license plate numbers of
automobiles that he said were used in suspected drug dealings. He also
had accounts of local residents, including church leaders, who had
been threatened by drug users.

John Cambra, who coaches Pop Warner football at the Kahaluu field,
said he's had to clean up after drugs users so the kids wouldn't see
the trash and condoms left behind.

"We have to escort our kids to the bathroom because we had people
taking a bath in the bathroom," Cambra said.

On Nov. 11 community members will clear overgrown vegetation next to
the park where they believe drug users are hanging out, Machado said.
More volunteers are needed, he said.

Plans to control traffic outside the Hygienic Store, an area where
drug deals are known to occur, also are being pursued, Machado said.
If parking can be eliminated there, then drug users and dealers would
have to go elsewhere, Machado said.

"We got the people that are willing to help," he told city and state
officials at the meeting. "We really don't need funds. We need the OK
to do something."

State Sen. Clayton Hee, Rep. Jessica Wooley and Ernie Martin with the
city's Community Services said they could help.

Others at the meeting pledged support.

Howard Kahua, executive director for RAM, an anti-addiction ministry,
offered part of RAM's office behind the Hygienic Store for a police
substation where officers can get coffee, use a computer and write

"Just the presence of an officer there or a car there pretty much
stops everything," Kahua said, adding that his group would be willing
to help with the clearing at the park.

Honolulu police plan a Kahaluu-Waihee Neighborhood Security Watch
meeting for Wednesday at KEY Project.

Sgt. Duane Samson said officers will work to build a sustainable
project including patrols and plainclothes operations, but residents
should focus on their community.

"Lets stay in our home, in our backyard and keep it sustainable,"
Samson said. "Let's track it. Let's do monthly meetings. Let's check
our progress."

Bob Nakata, pastor of Kahaluu United Methodist Church, concurred. Six
years ago, 500 people in the community campaigned against crystal
methamphetamine use here and across the island.

Nakata said there's a good chance for success this time because
Machado has resources that weren't available six years ago.

"We went out to try to help other communities, and we didn't finish
the job here," he said. "That needs to be done." 
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