Saturday, October 9, 2004

The new $4.1 million Lanai Police Station was blessed yesterday as residents say they are seeing a rise in drug problems.

Lanai Police Station opens
as drug use grows

As Maui County officials opened the $4.1 million Lanai Police Station yesterday, some Lanai residents say they also need more money for social programs to deal with rising drug problems.

"I think it's a great thing for our community, but it's hard for me as a native of Lanai to see change," said resident Joelle Aoki, noting that the station reminds her that the island's lifestyle is changing and there are more drug problems among youths.

The Lanai Police Station, along Fraser Avenue next to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church, opens when the tourist-based island has experienced some notoriety in the trafficking of crystal methamphetamine.

The island, with an estimated 3,100 residents, was named recently as a destination for crystal methamphetamine in a major drug bust last week involving Maui police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Aoki, executive director for the Coalition for a Drug Free Lanai, said the drug problem began to grow in the late 1980s as construction workers arrived to build the two major resorts.

She said in her opinion, since the shift from pineapple plantation work to a tourist-based economy, there has been a decrease in the practice of family values and parents working together and eating dinner with their children.

"The plantation lifestyle is so much different than the hotel lifestyle," she said.

Until yesterday police officers did their work in a portion of 950-square-foot tin-roofed building built in the 1930s that also housed Lanai District Court. A nearby building that looked like an outhouse served as the jail cell.

The new 8,212-square-foot police building includes three jail cells for adults and one for a juvenile, in addition to a lobby, several offices and a weight room.

Aoki said she wants to see more police on Lanai and a longer rotation of officers.

Gina Alonzo, who has worked as a nurse's aide for 16 years on Lanai, said the number of referrals to treat drug and alcohol problems has more than doubled in the last 15 years.

Alonzo said Lanai residents have to go to Oahu to receive treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, and when they return to the island, they run the risk of a relapse because there are no programs to help them make their transition back into the community.

Alonzo said the state and county have educational programs to discourage youths from taking drugs and alcohol.

"But what happens when the kids are on it? Who can they turn to?" she asked.



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