Monday, May 24, 1999

Star-Bulletin file photo
Last August's "Big Bang" drug bust, led by Sgt. Theodore
Chun, resulted in 32 arrests, 13 federal indictments
and the seizure of 17 vehicles.

Kalihi Valley
native fights crime
in the district

HPD honors Sgt. Chun for
the war on criminals he has
waged in the area

By Rod Ohira


In jeans and a dark blue T-shirt, he doesn't look like a cop, but Sgt. Theodore "Teddy" Chun is present at most major crime scenes in Kalihi.

As head of the Kalihi District's Crime Reduction Unit, Chun is close to the street action except for six vacation days a year, when he's usually off-island.

"But I always make sure someone knows how to reach me," said Chun, who is sharing Honolulu Police Department 1999 Officer of the Year honors with fellow Kalihi Sgt. John Kauwenaole.

"I have to take a minimum of 21 days vacation a year, but for me, at this stage of my career, all I need is six days to take one trip," he said. "For the last two or three years, I've been donating the remaining days to city employees who have maxed out their vacation and sick-leave time."

It's also not unusual for his pager to go off on his days off. "My wife just hands me the phone," he said.

The 46-year-old Chun, who became a police cadet two months after graduating from Damien Memorial High School in June 1971, is a Kalihi Valley native who has been fighting crime in the area for over half his HPD career.

Assistant Chief Stephen Watarai, a former Kalihi District commander, said Chun's vocabulary does not include the word "cannot."

"If you give him a mission, he's going to complete it," Watarai said. "If I were a criminal, I would hate to have him on my trail. With him, there's no hidden agenda, no ego -- it's just get the job done first.

"When he plans an operation, it's a complete plan that will even include 200 sandwiches for the guys who worked. That's why his men like working for him."

Chun planned and coordinated last August's "Big Bang" drug bust targeting dealers in the Mayor Wright Homes "Weed & Seed" area.

The operation resulted in 32 arrests, 13 federal indictments and the seizure of 17 vehicles.

It took several months of surveillance work to set up the bust last August.

"Since 1993, we've done 15 or 16 reverse-buy operations and in every one of them, we studied guys for weeks," Chun said. "It's time-consuming but it has to be done.

"We have to find areas where we can watch them without being seen."

The eight Honolulu police districts all have Crime Reduction Units, or CRUs. Most are headed by a sergeant.

Chun supervises eight plain-clothes officers in a unit that has been cited by HPD in 1997 and 1998.

"Our job is to address the immediate problems of patrol," Chun said. "We also do things other specialized units do -- such as doing search warrants on drug houses -- but on a patrol level. "If needed, we assist (the Criminal Investigation Division) in homicides, robberies and auto thefts. So we get a share of everything."

Developing street sources is a key element to CRU's undercover work. "Out there, you learn to separate the 80 percent lies from the 20 percent truth when using an informant," added Chun, who says other than buying a meal, he's never paid for information.

"You always need to find out what's motivating the informant to give out information. They all have to be tested."

Kalihi CRU first learned about a sophisticated mail-theft ring, which was busted last July, from street sources.

Federal officials say the ring, headed by Tina Marie Abalos, produced false identification cards to use with stolen checks and credit cards that cost local banks and merchants between $250,000 and $1 million. "We were getting a lot of information about their day-to-day activities," Chun said. "Things just developed. We watched and monitored, then turned the information over to CID."

For officers, a CRU assignment is demanding, especially on family life. "It's not a 9-to-5 job," Chun said. "Before anyone comes in, we ask them to consider how it's going to affect their family.

"It's long hours and there's no guarantee when you'll start each day. We adjust our hours according to whatever we're working on, so you could come in at 9 a.m. Tuesday and at 5 or 6 the next morning and work to midnight."

From 1985-88, Chun was a patrol officer assigned to the Kalihi CRU, where he "got my feet wet with Hawaii Brothers."

"Nobody back then wanted to recognize the gangs. They were calling them youth groups," he said. "To me, youth groups are YMCA clubs. We eventually tied the Brothers to gun running, murders and introduction of "ice' into the state."

Chun became a sergeant in 1989 and was named head of the Kalihi CRU in 1993.

"Whatever we accomplish," he said, "is because of hard work and the support of command."

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