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MPD Seeks Help From Community

Maui Police Department officials discuss concerns in the Kihei District … drugs are the “number one issue in the community.”

February 9, 2012
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez , The Maui Weekly

The Maui Police Department (MPD) wants you--but it's not quite what you may think.

Meeting with approximately 25 Kihei residents, MPD Chief Gary Yabuta and his officers stressed that with limited resources and a high volume of calls, citizen participation is needed to ensure that those resources are targeted in the best manner possible.

Yabuta also told attendees that he has created a special assignment unit of three officers for use " when we are overloaded and need more officers on the streets." Officers in this unit are placed on special assignment to address specific concerns.

Article Photos

Maui Police Department Chief Gary Yabuta listens as a community member asks how to let the police know when people are breaking the law. Yabuta urged them to call the police department, so that the police can learn where to better target their resources.

Among those concerns are park and beach patrols, and speed limit and other traffic enforcement based on community input.

According to Yabuta, the Kihei District, which is staffed with a total of 54 officers and civilian employees combined, receives 2,000 calls for service per month. The Kihei District--Ma'alaea, Kihei, Maui Meadows, Wailea and Makena--is geographically subdivided into five beats.

The Lahaina District receives 1,900 calls per month on average. In contrast, Wailuku gets 5,000 calls per month, making it the busiest police district in the state.

Deputy Chief of Police Clayton Tom, Kihei District Commander Capt. Tivoli Faaumu and officers with responsibilities in the areas of community policing, criminal investigations, visitor-oriented policing, bicycle patrols, special patrols, vice and juvenile crime prevention also spoke at the meeting.

Faaumu referred to the police as "the boots on the ground to maintain peace in the community."

"Our job is to meet with the community and see how we can solve problems together, Faaumu said."

Faaumu told those assembled that drugs are the "number one issue in the community."

According to statistics he presented, there were 58 drug-related incidents documented in the last three months of 2011, including 37 for marijuana, four for crystal methamphetamine, two for cocaine and one for heroin.

Among other community concerns reported to the police and documented for the meeting was drunk and disorderly behavior at the parks.

From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011, there were 162 incidents at parks and beaches in the Kihei District. Arrests included 17 for disorderly conduct, 15 for harassment and 13 for drug and liquor offenses.

Another community concern outlined by the police is traffic in South Maui, including speeding. Several members of the audience agreed that this is a problem in South Maui, including the safety of pedestrians when drivers do not stop for them as required by the law.

One member of the audience, who declined to give his name, said crossing South Kihei Road is dangerous, and that when some drivers see a pedestrian, they actually speed up.

Faaumu reported that there had been 659 traffic stops in the district between October and December 2011, with 1,492 citations issued.

"Traffic enforcement is not just on major highways, but also on neighborhood streets and by schools," Faaumu said, pointing out that on Kanani Road during the same October-December period, there were 62 traffic stops and 386 citations issued.

Several residents raised the issue of noise from loud mufflers or oversized wheels. The issue of loud "boom box" music being played at county parks was also raised.

But the announcement that MPD conducted a special operation on traffic infractions for six days last month in Wailuku regarding vehicles with loud mufflers, illegal tints and other infractions, issuing 386 citations, did not satisfy the Kihei audience.

When Chief Yabuta asked attendees if they wanted a similar effort in South Maui, almost every hand went up.

The chief also took the opportunity to confirm that Kihei will get its first police bicycle patrol this year in order to increase police presence in parks and beaches. The goal is to increase visibility and enable more contact within the community.

Issues of cell phone use, homeless individuals gathering near the beach at St. Theresa Church and the evacuation of residents from low-lying areas due to flooding were also raised.

Faaumu said that most of the homeless who gather for meals each day at St. Theresa on Lipoa Street and South Kihei Road are people who had been affected by the economy, with only 1 to 2 percent at most causing trouble.

He said the department is working with condominium complexes to learn their evacuation plans and studying how to increase opportunities for traffic to exit South Maui more rapidly than in the past.

When it came to cell phones, Victor Ramos, assistant chief of the Uniform Services Bureau, said, "We have issued hundreds of citations. We hope that everybody will be responsible when they drive, but unfortunately, that is not always the case. Hopefully, eventually the mindset will take hold."

To contact the MPD in a non-emergency situation and/or Maui Police Chief Gary Yabuta, call 244-6300. For an emergency, call 911. The Kihei District patrol can be reached by calling 875-8190.



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