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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Kailua, Hale'iwa forums explore ways to combat 'ice' problem

By Eloise Aguiar and Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writers

Two more O'ahu communities held town hall meetings last night to confront problems surrounding the drug "ice" that is fracturing neighborhoods throughout the island.

Kailua and Hale'iwa are the latest towns to explore how crystal methamphetamine is battering people in Hawai'i.

About 200 people attended the Kailua meeting, while about 150 gathered on the North Shore. The crowds included drug treatment professionals and recovering drug addicts; law enforcement officers; legislators and other policy-makers; and concerned residents.

Professionals laid out statistics. Residents poured out their hearts. Law enforcement officials promised help.

At the Windward meeting, Malia Staggs fought back tears as she spoke of a life of hardship since her ex-husband committed a murder while high on drugs. Now she must hold down two jobs to support her son.

"My son has a 90 percent chance of going to prison because his father is in prison," Staggs said.

Ice has ingrained in Hawai'i's family trees and woven itself into the fibers of the community, said local filmmaker Edgy Lee, who is making a documentary on ice use in Hawai'i. The half-hour film is expected to air on seven television stations at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25.

The documentary will focus on children and how the drug has taken hold in the community in the last 20 years, Lee said. A mother who uses ice during pregnancy addicts her child, who can suffer for 12 to 18 months and maybe longer after birth.

These babies don't like to be touched and they can't stand light or sound, she said. Lee said her film will help educate the public but more must be done for these children.

"We really need to address what's going on with these little children because they have no control of what we adults are doing to them," Lee said.

Avis Jervis, one of the founders of the Kailua spouse abuse shelter, said some 70 percent of the women at the shelter are there because of ice.

Substance-abuse counselor Maka Chun told the Kailua gathering that 90 percent of Halawa prison inmates are addicted to ice.

Sgt. Aukake Dapitan of the Police Department said that when he was working in the property crime division, 90 percent of the arrests he made were due to ice use.

On the North Shore, most of the people who showed up at Hale'iwa Elementary School had heard all the hard details, including that Hawai'i leads the nation in the percentage of male arrestees who test positive for crystal meth.

Keith Ryder, pastor of Light of Promise Ministries in Kahalu'u, said he believes in something that could actually be the beginning of a solution to what he called "this epidemic of ice."

Hope — a small beginning. Ryder believes that what started in Kahalu'u recently is going to spread and sweep across communities all across Hawai'i.

"Can anything really be done? That is the question," he said. "There is no miracle, but the something that can be done right now is giving the community hope, where there once was no hope at all."

Ryder speaks from tough experience. He has lost a cousin to ice, through suicide. His brother is addicted to ice. Another cousin is a dealer.

Ryder said law enforcement officers, drug dealers, ice manufacturers and users are all members of the same families trying to sort out how to deal with the nightmare of ice.

"We have people who haven't really looked at the damage they are doing to their own families," he said. "I have cousins who are dealers and I've asked them, 'How many more of our cousins have to die?' And my cousin told me, 'I'm trying to support my daughter.' And I said, 'At the expense of killing your family?' "

U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo offered his own vision of hope by promising to do everything in his power to help residents help themselves.

"By showing your support here tonight ... , you are empowering yourselves," Kubo told the North Shore meeting. "One person alone cannot fight the fight. Nor can two. But the community standing together is very empowering.

"You turn on the light, and the cockroaches scatter."

Kubo pointed to the Weed & Seed programs that have led to dramatic crime reduction rates in Honolulu communities as examples of what communities can do when they shine a light on the problem.

"We will help you in every way," Kubo said. "Let me give you a number that you can call if you know a drug dealer in your community — and I know you do." Kubo then gave the phone number of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency: 541-1930.

Likewise, Keith Kamita, chief of the state Narcotics Enforcement Division, told people in the audience to call 837-8470 if they know of someone making ice.

"Every day, crystal meth is being made in people's homes here," he said.

Most who spoke agreed that Hawai'i, in waiting so long to realize the scope of the problem, has forfeited a large portion of its younger generation to drugs in general and to ice in particular.

Nobody is spared. Crime, physical abuse in the home, suicides — they're all largely related to ice, said Kubo.

"We've got to draw the line now," he said. "Because if we don't, then we've lost our future.

At the Windward meeting, Abby Paredes, executive director of treatment center Poailani Inc. in Kailua, said drug addition touches all kinds of people from the very successful to the homeless.

"Drugs do not discriminate," Paredes said. "That's the reality we know. It's never been realistic to say only a certain person or a certain class of people do drugs."