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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Drug operations a success

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer

A recent Weed & Seed operation produced no arrests, but stiff penalties nevertheless, for suspected drug-trafficking at a federally funded housing project in Waipahu, police said.

Eviction notices have been issued to occupants of four Waipahu Tower units at 94-337 Pupumomi St., including a former resident manager, after federal agents conducted a "knock and talk" operation and found evidence of marijuana and crystal methamphetamine dealing, said Honolulu police Sgt. Aaron Farias, Waipahu Weed & Seed program supervisor.

In "knock and talk" operations, officers search suspicious homes with the residents' consent. The federal officers were from the the Hawai'i High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area's Rapid Reduction Drug Unit.

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, which funded the low-income housing project, has a zero-tolerance drug policy. "It's a good hammer for us," Farias said of the evictions. "Because rents are adjusted by incomes, losing a two- or three-bedroom unit for what they were paying hurts them."

The operation was triggered by complaints of drug dealing from Waipahu Tower residents, Farias said.

Police had tried to address the complaints in a more traditional fashion than "knock and talk," which is a federal tactic similar to "walk and talk" used at airports, where officers ask passengers if they can be searched for drugs.

"We've previously done warrants," Farias said. "At first, the dealing was out on the (street) corner, then they retreated onto the property in front of the building and then inside. It's a secured building. It was hard to get someone inside, because we were dealing with drug traffickers who don't deal with people they don't know."

Federal agents could do a "knock and talk" at a federally funded project. Surprise had to be an element, which is difficult in a secured building, Farias said.

Officers from Weed & Seed and the Pearl City Crime Reduction Unit assisted.

A second Weed & Seed operation with CRU officers shut down a suspected center for drugs and other criminal activity over the weekend.

The site was a crude wooden shack off of Nawa'akoa Street, built on the banks of Waikele Stream in Waipahu.

Police had been hampered for about two years in getting rid of the shack, which can be accessed by small boats coming in from Pearl Harbor, because of uncertainty on whether it was on state or city property, Farias said.

On Saturday, Weed & Seed received permission from the city to knock down the shack, a source of complaints from residents in the area. It served as a hideout for fugitives one was arrested there Friday and criminal activities that included gambling and chop shop work on stolen mopeds and bicycles, according to police.

Police said they recovered a sawed-off shotgun, a semiautomatic handgun, small amounts of crystal meth and $19,800 in cash. One man at the shack said the money was winnings from cockfighting, not drug dealing, said Pearl City CRU supervisor Sgt. Doug Iwamasa.

"The whole idea of Weed & Seed is we target certain areas, weed out the criminal element and give it back to the community," Farias said. "Waipahu was not always known for crime. We're trying to help the community rebuild itself."

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.