Hawaiʻi County Police Chief Weighs In on Drug Issues

Apr 24, 2018

Hawaiʻi Police Chief Paul Ferreira
Credit Sherry Bracken

Drug issues continue to contribute to crime on all islands, and that includes the Big Island. Contributing reporter Sherry Bracken talked with Hawai'i County’s Police Chief to find out what he sees as the biggest drug issues on Hawai'i Island.

Hawai'i County Police Chief Paul Ferreira says illegal drugs can impact related crimes from burglary to impaired driving. And while there is much discussion nationally about opioids, Chief Ferreira says opioids are not the biggest drug problem in Hawai'i.

“Right now, if you look across the state, crystal meth is the biggest threat that we have. After that it’s marijuana. After that it’s heroin and cocaine. Opioids has not hit the state of Hawai'i yet. We’re trying to get ahead of the curve."

Chief Ferreira says there are two different task forces in the state, with law enforcement chiefs, federal partners including the DEA and the FBI, and the State Department of Health, all trying to prevent Hawai'i from suffering the impacts of the opioid crisis being felt on the mainland.

“A lot of it is based on education, some of it’s based on prevention, doing what we can to stop it from happening.  Everyone has this idea that it’s Mom and Dad’s drugs in the cabinet.  That’s a small part of it.  You have synthetic opioids coming out of Mexico, out of China. The Federal Government has announced they’re going after the drug companies, make them responsible for having these drugs out on the streets.  They also need to look at drugs being imported.”

Chief Ferreira says regarding crystal methamphetamine, there was a big push around 2005 to address the problem, close ice houses, and it temporarily died down—but it never went away. He says no meth is being made on the island now, and all comes in from elsewhere. His department works closely with federal partners and also monitors the Hilo and Kona airports and shipping companies to help stop the inflow of meth.