Rival gangs in 'fight for turf'
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Curtis Lum
The recent escalation in violence in Chinatown is the result of a turf war between rival organized crime groups over the distribution of drugs, Honolulu's police chief said yesterday.
Chief Boisse Correa acknowledged the problem at a press conference held to discuss a wide range of issues facing the city. The chief also responded to criticism over his leadership from the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the union that represents HPD's rank and file.
Correa recently returned from an international conference of police chiefs in Taipei, Taiwan. While he was away, one man was gunned down March 28 near River and Pauahi streets and another man was stabbed Friday near the scene of the shooting.
The chief would not say that Friday's stabbing was in retaliation for the shooting, but he did say the two events involved organized crime groups that are fighting over the distribution of drugs, primarily cocaine.
"It appears what's fueling the problem is drugs and a fight for turf," Correa said. "You have a group of individuals, a gang that's come from San Francisco, and they're fighting over turf on who will distribute certain type of drugs and who will take control of certain types of activities within the Downtown area."
On March 28, Joseph Peneueta was shot to death as he tried to flee from two gunmen in Chinatown. Court records show that Peneueta had been in and out of state and federal prisons since 1998 for drug offenses.
The two men accused of shooting him also have records of drug convictions. Iosefa Pasene and Zorro Rye are charged in connection with Peneueta's death and are being held without bail.
Although the Chinatown violence maybe a recent development, Correa said the Mainland drug organization isn't. He said this group, which he declined to name, came to Honolulu about 10 years ago, but said the Police Department has worked hard to keep its activities in check.
"For years, we put a lid on it," Correa said, adding that between 10 and 20 people make up the San Francisco group in the Islands.
"We've put a lot of effort in moving this group out of Honolulu and different individuals would come back and then they'll conflict with what we have here in the Islands in another organized crime group," he said.
In response to the recent violent activities, he said, police have stepped up patrol and undercover activities in Chinatown. Correa said a "substantial" amount of police resources have been diverted from all over the island to focus on the crime problem and he believes the effort is working.
"They're backing off. They got the message," he said. "We'll do whatever is necessary to make Chinatown safe. We're not going to lose control over the streets."
Correa yesterday also answered criticism from the police union, which said the majority of its officers do not support the chief and want a new chief. Correa is seeking an extension to his contract, which expires in August.
SHOPO conducted a survey of its members, and although the results have yet to be released, union leaders said preliminary results reveal greater displeasure with the chief than in a similar survey four years ago.
Correa said he doesn't believe SHOPO leaders represent the feelings of the majority of the rank and file. He said "enthusiasm by our officers is at the highest level" and that is evident by the high number of citations and DUI arrests last year.
The chief pointed out that officers will get a 12 to 13 percent pay increase in the next two years and there is a commitment from the city administration that no one in the department will be laid off in that period.
"Life has not been as good as it is now for the Honolulu Police Department," Correa said.
He denied union allegations that he retaliates against officers who disagree with his administration. Correa said action taken against officers are the result of "bona fide" complaints from the public and is done to protect the integrity of the department and community.
"If you look at our record, there's never retaliation against any union member," Correa said. "We have bent over backwards for the union. We have given them concessions, working on them with all of these issues."
Correa said he is scheduled to receive his annual evaluation from the Honolulu Police Commission on Thursday.
"We're looking forward to seeing that evaluation of my administration and of myself," he said.
Also yesterday, Correa was honored by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Honolulu for his work to improve relations between police departments in Taipei and Honolulu. He was presented a medal and certificate by Philip Wang, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.
Reach Curtis Lum at firstname.lastname@example.org.