Big Island operation nets 91 arrests
HILO » A four-day dragnet involving 10 federal, state and local agencies operating on the Big Island led to the arrest of 91 alleged drug and violent-crime offenders on 130 warrants last week, the U.S. Marshals Service announced yesterday.
Called Operation Pono, the effort focused on fugitives with warrants or criminal histories related to narcotics, sexual assault or other crimes of violence, the Marshals Service said.
"In our opinion the capture of career criminals will result in reduction of crime and safer communities," said U.S. Marshal Mark Hanohano.
Hawaii County police Maj. Marshall Kanehailua said many of the people arrested were probably hiding out, lying low. But some were also actively engaged in new crimes, and capturing them will reduce crime, he said.
"We definitely see a downturn in crime in specific areas," he said.
The operation resulted in 13 new criminal cases, the Marshals Service said.
"Fugitives like Crisanto Ragasa, who was wanted for drug trafficking and firearms possession, or Perry Johnson, who was wanted for kidnapping and terroristic threatening, are now both behind bars," a statement said.
Some of the suspects posted bail as soon as they were arrested, Kanehailua said. But if they fail to appear in court, they will have bail bondsmen looking for them, too.
Many are lifelong residents of the Big Island. "Where are you going to go? They might be on the run locally, but eventually they get caught," he said.
Police often know where the offenders are.
"We just don't have time to go out and get them," Kanehailua said.
The 91 arrests represent not quite half of the 200 offenders sought, he said. Officials started to put the operation together about a month in advance.
"That's a lot of numbers for a short period," he said.
About 50 officers took part in the operation, compared with another Operation Pono in 2004, when 35 officers arrested 98 offenders in seven days.
Such operations are relatively simple because the existence of bench warrants means a judge has already heard evidence against the suspects, Kanehailua said.
In contrast, Operation Island Pipeline in 2001, which shut down an international heroin ring and resulted in 58 arrests, required 13 months of gathering evidence before arrests could be made.