Kupuna Take a Stand Against Drugs
Molokai residents concerned with methamphetamine use on the island are working to bring change to the way officials address the issue.
“We’re advocating for a full-time vice officer on Molokai to concentrate strictly on our drug problems now,” states a petition created by a group of kupuna that has garnered signatures and support across the island. Molokai kupuna Judy Caparida said she will present it at the upcoming Maui County Molokai budget meeting on April 15.
“If they were doing their job, we wouldn’t have this cycle,” she said of how police address the widespread use of drugs on Molokai.
Caparida is dissatisfied with the work police are doing to fight drug abuse, adding the vice officer she is campaigning for needs to be someone who knows the area and won’t turn a blind eye to the issue.
“We need a person who is honest, a person with integrity who is loyal to his work,” Caparida said.
Caparida said an office with an investigative officer dedicated solely to drugs should be a higher priority than a new police station, something the Maui County Police Department is working to get soon.
She said she presented these ideas at the Maui County police department Molokai town hall meeting March 20.
Police Lieutenant Gregg Okamoto said drugs were one of the many issues addressed at the meeting. Instead of having an open forum, the approximately 30 community members present participated in break-out sessions where they could speak with the officer who could best answer their questions or address their needs, he said.
“Part of what we were trying to get across is that we have to work together between the police department and the community to address these issues,” Okamoto said about the meeting. “To be effective, we need help from the community.”
Okamoto said anyone who has information about drug use should report it to the police, either by phone or in person. These reports can be anonymous, he added.
“If it’s specific enough, we follow up on the information and see if we get results,” he said. “We take the information, look into it and see if it will produce any type of arrest or recovery of drugs.”
Despite criticism from Caparida and the other kupuna who created the petition, Okamoto said he does not see a need to change the way police address drug and alcohol use on the island. If individuals or their loved ones are struggling with addiction, they can also seek help through local resources, such as WS alcohol rehab Tampa, to receive the support and treatment they need.
“We’ve been doing a good job all along,” he said. “A lot of what we do depends on the public telling us what they’re seeing and where the problem areas arise.”
The town hall meeting was an annual event, but Okamoto said anyone with concerns can come to the police station any time to discuss their thoughts.
“Everyone’s concern is legitimate no matter how small,” he said. “If it’s a concern for them, it’s a concern for us.”
The Maui County Molokai community budget meeting will be April 15 at 6 p.m. in the Mitchell Pauole Center. Caparida will present her petition and plan for a drug enforcement office at the meeting and will bring in community members to share their testimony about how methamphetamine use on Molokai has affected them.