AYUMI NAKANISHI / ANAKANISHI@STARBULLETIN.COM
Volunteers from GP Maintenance Solutions Inc. helped paint walls Sept. 4 at Kaimiloa Elementary School as part of Aloha United Way's Day of Caring. Among those painting were, from top, company worker Thomas Peralta, 6-year-old Kaimiloa student Colton Salvador and company manager David M. Takiguchi.
The Ewa community is trying to take the sting out of District 8 crime.
Ewa banks on benefits
of Weed & Seed
The community hopes to reap the same
gains as Kalihi and Waipahu
By Genevieve A. Suzuki
In 2000 it had the highest number of cases of any police district on Oahu for negligent homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault, arson, sex offenses and family offenses, including domestic abuse.
Police, prosecutors and the community hope to see a drop in those numbers as have other Oahu areas that have started Weed & Seed programs to raise community awareness and establish intervention and prevention programs.
Ewa, Ewa Villages, Ewa Gentry and Ewa Beach launched a Weed & Seed program Sept. 4 on Aloha United Way's Day of Caring by cleaning up graffiti and trash and making improvements on the Ewa Community Center.
"There were a lot of people out there," said Ewa resident Michelle Kinimaka. A bus full of children showed up that day to help with the cleanup of Ewa's Oneula Beach Park, Kinimaka said.
"That's one of the things we've got to do is get the kids involved," said Kinimaka, a case manager with Hale Kipa, a youth service organization. "We need to think about what we can offer the kids and keep the kids out of trouble."
Weed & Seed has been in Hawaii since 1998, when the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., approved Kalihi-Palama/Chinatown as the first Weed & Seed site, said Maile Kanemaru, the executive director of Weed & Seed Hawaii. Waipahu was the second site, chosen in 1999.
The program has had success in its Kalihi and Waipahu sites.
Violent crime has decreased by 70 percent at the Kalihi-Palama/Chinatown site since it became a Weed & Seed site, said police Maj. Mike Tucker of District 1, which covers the Diamond Head side of Liliha Street to Nuuanu Avenue.
"We just convicted a drug organization that was operating in the Weed & Seed Waipahu site," said U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo Jr.
Federal and state agents recovered 26 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, or ice, more than 30 firearms and more than $50,000 in cash at the bust. "As a result, drug-related crimes in Waipahu dropped 80 percent in this last year," Kubo said.
"I'm very confident we will start seeing similar positive results in the Ewa community," Kubo said.
The "seed" portion of the program, which includes prevention, intervention and neighborhood restoration, is especially important to Weed & Seed, Tucker said.
"Drugs are so insidious that when we do put people away, there are always people to take their place," Tucker said. "We can arrest people, but unless the community gets involved -- that's the challenge."
It takes about a year for a neighborhood to become a Weed & Seed site because the community has to invest in conducting surveys that determine its assets and challenges.
Weed & Seed Hawaii requires everyone in the community to be involved, from schools and businesses to residents and social agencies.
"It's a holistic approach to revitalizing the community," Kanemaru said. There are 400 volunteers with Weed & Seed Hawaii.
In Ewa the community wants to eradicate drug dealing and public drinking, and its neighborhood restoration committee wants to get rid of abandoned vehicles and graffiti.
"We'd like to get a little more community involvement," Kinimaka said. Ewa residents complain in community meetings that their neighbors are dealing drugs, Kinimaka said. "All the neighbors are afraid to do anything about it."
Kanemaru said the Police Department trains residents for the community policing group. "You need to work with law enforcement for the total package," Kanemaru said.
"A lot of my job is making sure we have a force and a presence in the Weed & Seed area," Tucker said. Community members can get together and request training workshops from the police.
Every community that is named a Weed & Seed site is given $175,000 by the federal government.
"It isn't much," Kanemaru said. "It depends on collaboration and the resources that already exist in the community."
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