West Hawaii Today, Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Drug court celebrates first graduate
More than a year after first setting foot in Big Island Drug Court, Benjamin Fleming walked out for the last time Tuesday.
"I hope this is the last time you're in a court room, except for when they call you for jury duty," Fleming's probation officer, Aolani Mills, told him.
Fleming, the Big Island Drug Court's first graduate, wore a dark dress shirt and slacks, a neatly trimmed mustache and combed hair to Tuesday's informal graduation ceremony in Third Circuit Court.
He bore only a distant resemblance to his former self - the disheveled and unshaven man arrested last year for possession of drug paraphernalia.
The case was dismissed Tuesday, upon his graduation.
"From the moment I first stepped into drug court, I knew it would change my life forever," said Fleming, who has been drug - free for 14 months. "The staff was sincere and wanted me to succeed but they wouldn't do it for me. I got sanctioned along the way, but that didn't make me want to go back to the drugs."
Tuesday's ceremony was the culmination of Fleming's efforts. Drug court is not an easy program to complete. It requires bi - weekly drug checks, frequent court appearances, almost constant supervision and sanctions that can include time in jail. It typically takes a minimum of a year to graduate. The alternative is prosecution in a regular court and the possibility of prison.
Prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, substance abuse counselors and others who worked closely with Fleming over the years offered words of support.
"I give him a lot of credit for sticking it out to the end like he did," said Russel Fleming, Benjamin's father. "I'm proud of him for that."
Benjamin's mother, Phyllis Fleming said, "I am so happy to be here. And I am very emotional. But I just wanted to say I always believed in Ben. He always did good in whatever he did. I love him and I'm proud of him."
Russel and Phyllis drove from Hilo to watch their son graduate.
Fleming said he was once so addicted to ice (crystal methamphetamine) and marijuana, he'd smoke first thing in the morning, every morning. The addiction eventually cost him his business, his cars, and the trust of some of his friends.
But he said he believes his future is brighter now.
He lost his restaurant repair business last year, but is starting over under another name - "The Kitchen Doctor."
He plans to marry his girlfriend of three years, Rena Makahanaloa, and concentrate on raising their daughter, 10 - month - old Ashly.
His graduation brings hope to other Big Island participants - many of whom are six to eight months away from completion.
"We're really proud of him," said Michael Fattorosi, a drug court participant since August, when police arrested him for promoting a dangerous drug. "The drug court is great. It saved my life, I think. I couldn't have done it without their help."
But while optimism prevailed Tuesday, it remains to be seen how well Fleming will fare without supervision. Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra, who oversees drug court in West Hawaii, offered him a gentle warning.
"I don't say this to put added pressure on you," Ibarra said. "But as the first to graduate, you are the poster boy for the drug court program here. What you do out there will affect this program and your drug court ohana."
West Hawaii Today, Thursday, November 27, 2003
Ice warning for students
"I've seen people on ice awake for 15 days. If you're awake for 15 days all you're thinking about is ice. You're not thinking about your other responsibilities," Mahuna said, after urging students to think about how they want their lives to be before considering taking drugs.
He shared stories about friends and acquaintances whose lives had fallen apart after using the drug, including one Big Island man who lost his family and jobs to the addiction and now is receiving treatment on Oahu.
"He'll never be able to rebuild the trust he lost," Mahuna said.
With Mahuna was Ma Chi of the National Guard's Counterdrug Program. Chi works with the Police Department's East Hawaii vice section and has spoken to students at several Big Island schools.
One gram of crystal methamphetamine - the size of a individual packet of sugar - costs about $200, Chi said. Most students can't afford that, he said, so some drug dealers give it away to children, knowing that once addicted he'll be willing to do anything for more.
Chi also told of a 57 - year - old ice addict who gave the drug to high school girls in exchange for sex before being arrested.
"Once you try it, they have you for life," he said.
He noted drug addiction can lead to other crimes, such as theft and burglaries to get money to buy drugs or shootings to protect drugs.
"A lot of these guys have guns," Chi said. "They have more guns than we have guys in the vice section."
Mahuna said ice is a major factor in domestic violence and family troubles. "Every time you see a ice house you see a pregnant woman and she is ingesting ice, which has a direct affect on her baby."
Social studies teacher Casey Boyett asked Mahuna to speak to three of his classes. Last year, some of his students participated in the Judiciary History Center of Honolulu's "Project Citizen" and chose to research the effect of the ice epidemic on the community.
"Ice is a drug that affects every aspect of our community," Boyett said.
West Hawaii Today, Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Taking it to the streets
Hundreds of Waimea Middle School students line Mamalahoa Highway in Waimea to urge motorists to not use ice (crystal methampethamine) and other drugs during Tuesday afternoon's sign-waving campaign. -BARON SEKIYA-WHT
Hawaii Tribune Herald, Thursday, July 17, 2003
Anti-drug 'hugs' rally around isle on Thursday
On the Waiakea Intermediate School Campus on Oct. 9, health teacher Constance Douglas, middle, joins some two dozen of her 7th-graders waving anti-ice signs to passing motorists. The Big Island's second islandwide "Hugs Not Drugs!" sign-waving is set for Tuesday.
T-H photos by William Ing
Communities by the dozen, schools to join in big wave
The Big Island's second islandwide "Hugs Not Drugs!" signwaving is set for Tuesday.
To date, more than two dozen communities have confirmed plans to join. The times will vary depending on what best suits each community's pau-hana traffic flow, but all waving will generally be between 3 and 6 p.m.
Several schools plan to participate. All 540 students at Waimea Middle School will line up along Mamalahoa Highway with teachers and staff from 1-1:45 p.m.
A loose-knit coalition of community groups is coordinating the effort headed by Solutions: Neighborhoods In Action.
Among the participants are community response-to-ice task forces from North Kohala to Ka'u, as well as community associations, Neighborhood Watch groups, churches, social service agencies, public and private schools and businesses.
"Everyone on the island is invited to participate in taking a stand for healthier families and drug-free neighborhoods," said "Kona Lil" Beaufrere, volunteer leader of Solutions: Neighborhoods In Action, a coalition of Neighborhood Watch organizations around the island.
Why wave signs? There are many reasons, says Beaufrere, including the obvious - building awareness. "It's a great way to network, overcome fear and intimidation, learn about alternatives and prevention and treatment choices, and to 'take back our neighborhoods'."
Participants may use existing signs or make up new signs and slogans. Groups are urged to also oring their business or community group banner in support of "drug free living". Sign waving groups are urged to appoint a safety director for each location to be sure participants observe appropriate caution near roadways.
Also, since Halloween is just around the comer, sign wavers are urged to wear costumes that Help convey a healthy, drug-free message.
A complete listing of sign waving locations is posted on Solutrons' Web site: www.solutionsislandhawaii.com. A list can also be found on the Hawaii County Web site: www.healingourisland.com.
For more information, contact Beaufrere at 325-0039 or firstname.lastname@example.org
West Hawaii Today, Wednesday, October 21, 2003
The community must keep the heat on 'ice'
There are three keys to controlling the ice (crystal methamphetamine) epidemic in Hawaii: Awareness, intolerance, and enforcement. And they are falling nicely into place.
The Big Island community has been aware of the ice problem for more than three years, with a growing participation by more and more residents in ice awareness activities. This awareness has been reflected in a growing intolerance of ice use and ice houses, most recently by politicians, but more importantly by police and most critically, by the community itself.
Police said information from the public has been on the upswing, more tips, complaints and communication of ice-related problems.
Now, the police are taking big steps on the enforcement side.
In early September, a notorious ice house in Honalo was shut down as police charged 11 with drug-related offenses. The department has been busy serving many ice-related warrants.
This past week, Big Island police, supporting federal efforts, made arrests on the Big Island and Oahu, crippling what U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said were five drug trafficking organizations.
The figures presented by Kubo in announcing the completion of "Operation Shave Ice" were staggering: On at least one occasion drug-trafficking suspects brought to Hawaii 40 pounds of ice, another group was bringing in 40 pounds of ice each month from California, Nevada and Arizona via airlines, ships and the mail.
While details of the operation have yet to be fully disclosed, the initial results are promising. The Hawaii County Police Department executed 20 search warrants on the Big Island alone last Tuesday, resulting in arrest warrants for 20 residents, including 10 in West Hawaii.
Kubo credited federal laws allowing wiretaps as pivotal in dismantling the drug rings and building the case against drug traffickers.
"This case shows that the federal wiretap laws can and will protect our citizens from those who dare to import or distribute ice to our people," Kubo said. "And this is a very effective law enforcement tool which has been approved of by our federal courts."
He then chided Hawaii legislators for failing to enable state law enforcement to use the same effective wire tap tools to "protect our citizens from these organizations distributing ice to our citizens."
Hawaii County Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna echoed the sentiment, saying federal and county law enforcement was more effective in identifying and dismantling the members of the drug-trafficking organizations by using federal wire tapping laws and "state-of-the-art wiretapping equipment."
As the politicians recognize the concern of isle residents over the ice epidemic, they might seek to grandstand less and act a little more. Enabling state law enforcement to use the same tools available to their federal counterparts would be a small, but very significant step in that direction. Wire taps can and should be used against criminals - without compromising the privacy of law-abiding individuals - providing the proper measures are in place.
This past week was a bad one for the ice dealers. But the ice problem will not be solved by enforcement alone. The community must remain resolute: There can be no tolerance of this horribly addictive drug in our midst.
We must keep the heat on the ice epidemic.
Big Island marshals anti-ice force
This demonstration by about 250 people on Kamehameha Avenue in Hilo yesterday was one of more than 30 such anti-drug displays around the island.
Kevin Dayton • The Honolulu Advertiser
By Kevin Dayton/The Honolulu Advertiser
HILO, Hawai'i — Rockne Araujo, a retired Hilo cop, is angry at what drugs have done to his once-quiet neighborhood.
Tony Carrisal, a recovering addict, frets that kids are picking up the glass pipe with no idea what crystal methamphetamine can do to them.
And Dr. George Rourke, a family practitioner, cannot comprehend some of the destructive things he sees his drug-addicted patients doing to themselves and their families.
They all grabbed signs and hit the street in Hilo yesterday afternoon in an islandwide demonstration against crystal methamphetamine. They were joined by an estimated 1,500 anti-drug activists who held signs at about 35 sites from Ka'u to Hawi, and from Pahoa to Kailua, Kona.
"Hilo is the last, last holdout for a peaceful life in the islands, and I'd like to see it go back to the days when there was no drugs around," said Araujo, as honking cars and trucks sped by him on Kamehameha Avenue along Hilo Bay.
"Take a look around, see how many people are on unemployment, see how many marriages have been broken, see how many murders involve drugs, and beatings. It's sad," he said.
Lilian Beaufrere, islandwide coordinator for the event, said organizers wanted to show drug users that the public is watching them, and show politicians that anti-ice initiatives have community support.
"We're going to be active now; it is no longer in the back of the closet," said Beaufrere, who is chair of an organization called Solutions: Neighborhoods in Action. "It's to say, "This is it, guys, we don't want any more of this.' "
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim has "declared war" on ice on the Big Island, where crystal methamphetamine addiction is seen as a critical problem that has overwhelmed healthcare providers and social service agencies.
The Big Island demonstration is the latest in a series of sign-waving events around the state. The events are used in part to rally community support for anti-drug initiatives, and in part to attract new volunteers to the cause, Beaufrere said.
Malia Leialoha, a counselor for a drug treatment program called the Big Island Substance Abuse Council, said the event also shows users there are ways to have clean fun.
Araujo said he hopes the event will motivate people to report what they know to the police, and help authorities get a handle on the problem.
"This idea of 'I'm afraid, I'm afraid,' sooner or later you're going to have to stand up, or they're going to walk all over you," Araujo said.
Hawaii Tribune Herald, Thursday, July 17, 2003
Hugs Not Drugs
Some 200 sign-waving demonstrators on both sides of Kamehameha Avenue said "'A'ole to Drugs!"
T-H photos by William Ing
By Peter Sur/ Tribune-Herald
A jubilant scene erupted Wednesday afternoon along a long stretch of Kamehameha Avenue as some 200 community members rallied against drug use and addiction.
The spectacle was repeated at 27 other places around the Big Island, including three other streets in Hilo, as part of a "Hugs Not Drugs" rally.
Amid the countless shaka signs and the motorists' honking horns, Char Nago Merritt walked down the line, thanking each person for their support. Merritt, a clinical supervisor at Drug Addiction Services of Hawaii, was the Hilo - area coordinator for the rally.
"This is about making a safer community," she said, adding the Big Island had the highest index of drugs and domestic violence among all the islands.
All the sign - wavers have had experience with the effects of ice and other drugs, she said.
Joshua Lagmay, a recovering ice addict, held a large sign that read "Don't get lost in the frost."
"I lost my whole family," he said. Child Protective Services recently returned his two children into his custody, he said.
"It takes even things that you love and cherish away from you," he said. "No do drugs."
Temperatures reached into the mid - 80s, but that did not keep Curtis Silva, 14, from wearing black pants, a black long - sleeved shirt, black gloves and a Halloween mask. Silva's sign read: "I come to kill, steal and destroy Ice Man."
He was there to help people stop using drugs such as ice, cocaine, crack and marijuana, he said. The temperature was "a little bit" uncomfortable, but he still felt good to be out there, he said.
Silva was on vacation from Kentucky. He was demonstrating with his aunt, Julia Kunewa.
Throughout the rally, which lasted from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., passing cars, trucks and 18 - wheel semitrailers blared their horns, energizing the crowd.
Most of the participants created their own signs. The written slogans included: "Get high on life, not on ice," "Burn blow, burn dough. What's the difference? We don't know" and the familiar "No hope in dope."
Representatives of the Hawaii Fire Department, the Big Island Substance Abuse Council, the Big Island Drug Court and many other organizations were present. Some, like Lagmay, arrived spontaneously.
Kanoelehua Industrial Area Association director Kathy Hirayama stood near the Pauahi Street intersection with a group of KIAA members.
"We believe in stemming drugs in our community," she said.
Meanwhile, on both sides of Kilauea Avenue near First Hawaiian Bank, about 35 people, all bank employees, carried signs and waved at passing cars.
"We've seen a lot of support from people in the community," said branch manager Harold Hughes.
Drug use is rampant in Hawaii. A 2001 study revealed that 38 percent of adult males arrested from January to September tested positive for meth abuse, and 29 percent tested positive for marijuana, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Web site. In addition, Hawaii was called a "'national leader' in the production of high - grade marijuana."
West Hawaii Today, Monday, May 19, 2003
Seminar seeks solutions to island woesBy KAREN IWAMOTO/West Hawaii Today
Big Island residents have heard the problems: Traffic, drugs, burglaries and thefts. They've heard the solutions: Stricter drug enforcement laws, drug rehabilitation centers and more police officers on the streets.
But making those solutions a reality often takes longer than residents would like.
At the island - wide seminar Solutions 2003: Neighborhoods in Action, held Saturday at Waikoloa Beach Marriott, members of the community from North Kohala to Ka'u, met with government officials to figure out a way they could help government make those solutions a reality.
Lillian Beaufrere, founder of the seminar said she wanted to facilitate better communication between government and the people it serves. Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth, Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna and Billy Kenoi, executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim, spoke at the seminar.
Police Lt. Robert Hickcox and Detective Marshall Kanehailua explained to the sometimes frustrated audience, why it takes police months to take down a drug house.
Before obtaining a search warrant to search a suspect's house, police must receive and verify information about the suspect, ensure accuracy of the information received and coordinate with other law enforcement agencies among other things - a process that can take more than a year, he said.
"We walk a thin line between what we can tell the public and what we can't. We want to keep the public informed but there are some people in the public we don't want to keep informed," Kanehailua said.
"You have to have faith in the police," he added. "Just because something doesn't happen the very next day, don't be discouraged. It doesn't mean we're not working on it."
He encouraged the public to call the Police Department's drug/vice hotline at 934 - 8423 or 329 - 0423.
Hawaii Tribune Herald, Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Group seeking answers about Big Island for public safetyBy Chris Loos/ Tribune-Herald
A grass - roots organization working at improving public safety wants Big Island residents to answer an Internet survey that should help identify common problems.
The results will be shared at an islandwide community meeting in Waikoloa next month.
"Solutions 2003: Neighborhoods in Action" is a follow - up to a similar meeting a year ago that attracted 167 participants, many who were members of Neighborhood Watch groups.
"Last year we came up with four priorities," said organizer and host Lilian Beaufrere. They were drugs, traffic, property crimes, animal control, and police manpower.
This year's seminar May 17 at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott can accommodate up to 227 participants. "It's to get all these people in the same room and connect," Beaufrere said.
In the morning session participants will select a workshop in traffic, property crimes, or animal control and then work with others to identify three top issues on that topic and discuss how to tackle them, Beaufrere said. "The afternoon session is a follow - up on the Meth Summit held last August."
The "ice" portion will be led by Mayor Harry Kim's executive assistant, Billy Kanoe. Other participants will include Kim, police Chief Lawrence Mahuna, fire Chief Daryl Oliveira.
The fee is $25 for the first 200 participants and $50 for each additional person, Beaufrere said. Part of the registration fee is being supplemented by $10,000 in grant money from the Atherton Family Foundation, a private non - profit organization. Some of the grant money will go to setting up two phone lines so presenters can show the participants the county's ice Web site and the site Beaufrere set up.
Her Web site, www.solutionsislandhawaii.com, is where citizens can find surveys about drugs, property crime, traffic and police manpower.
For example, one question asks, "Should police manpower be increased?" Another asks, "What are your top three (3) priorities for police funding?" and then lists the following choices: increase patrol officers, increase vice officers, increase community policing officers, marijuana eradication, ice eradication, gambling, prostitution, increase communication/technology ability.
Beaufrere said she sent out the drug survey Saturday and had received 25 responses by Monday. The traffic survey, which went out earlier, prompted 130 responses so far.
Beaufrere said she was surprised by the results she's been getting from the animal control survey. "So far, rodents seem to be coming up as a No. 1 issue," she said.
That result exemplifies her goal of seeking comments on all public safety issues, not just police matters. And it underscores the need for public participation to identify the issues.
"This is not a police job," Beaufrere said. "It's our job. Our. Our. Our. Our. Our."
West Hawaii Today, Sunday, February 9, 2003 - 25A
Foundation grant funds seminarSolutions 2003 has been awarded a grant of $10,000 by the Atherton Family Foundation, said Duane Erway, president of Plan To Protect.
Solutions 2003's mission is to establish interaction and foster cooperation between Neighborhood Watch programs, community members and associa- tions, and government and service agencies for the purpose of sharing solu- tions for an enhanced quality of life throughout the Island of Hawaii.
"This grant allows Solutions 2003 to conduct its annual seminar for Neighborhood Watch coordinators and others dedicated to improving their community. The seminar provides information and instruction to increase awareness, use crime-reducing protective measures, and work closely with government and businesses toward a safer environment," said Lil Beaufrere, Solutions 2003 chairwoman.
This is the second year that Beaufrere is hosting the seminar at the Outrigger Waikoloa Beach Hotel on April 26. All interested community members and groups are invited to attend.
Neighborhood Watch is the organization that works with the Hawaii County Police Department's community policing officers to reduce crime and hazards in neighborhoods.
Plan To Protect accepts tax-deductible donations for Solutions 2003 and future years' seminars. Donations may be mailed to: Plan To Protect - Solutions 2003, 81-950 Makahiki Lane, Captain Cook, HI 96704. For more information, call Beaufrere at 325-0039.