Police need more specifics
to investigate complaints
Question: As a community, we are frustrated and don't know what to do. There is a drug house in our neighborhood that we have been complaining about for over five years. These people don't work, are on welfare and keep having more kids who think selling drugs are a way of life. It's really sad to see the drug cycle continue. It used to be pretty low-key, but has now turned scary. The people who come around are definitely on ice and look out of control. If police were to watch this house over a couple of days, they would see people coming and going at all hours of the day and night, especially at night. On a slow day, they have 10 to 15 buyers. Several neighbors have called police to report this house like they say we should, but this house has never been raided. I know it takes time to build a case against dealers, but we're starting to wonder if the police are even listening to us. Even though we aren't in the best area, we love our island and hate to see it destroyed by drugs. We would really like to know if there are other things we should be doing to have this house investigated or if we've done all we can do.
Answer: Honolulu Police Department records do show that people have complained about activities at the address you provided, the last time in July.
Police had conducted surveillance on the house, but with no success, according to HPD Lt. Lester Hite. However, based on your complaint, he said officers would take another look.
The problem is that the complaints have been too vague, said Hite, who's in charge of regional drug complaints for a wide expanse of Oahu, including Pearl City/Ewa, the Waianae Coast, Wahiawa/Mililani/Waialua, North Shore, and Kahuku to Makapuu.
With Hite receiving an average of 80 complaints a month, unless complaints are specific, he said it's difficult for police to either follow up or gather evidence.
We asked Hite to explain, in general, what people do and should do when reporting suspected drug activity.
What typically happens when people contact police, either via the hot line, 529-3101, or HPD's Web site, www.honolulupd.org, is that they report something vague or with too little specifics, then leave no name or contact number.
One example, Hite said, was a complaint that "Drugs are running rampant, 24/7, on the Waianae Coast." That was it.
"What am I supposed to do with that?" Hite asked. "Unless you can narrow down a location, we're not even filing out a complaint form."
The easiest complaints to deal with are what Hite categorizes as "open-air complaints," such as those at public parks or shopping areas.
"Those are the easiest, because people dealing in that kind of environment will pretty much approach people or will sell to anybody approaching them," he said. More difficult are people who deal from their homes, because they tend to be selective of their customers.
Police need a "probable cause" to obtain a warrant to search a house and "the only way to get probable cause is by acquiring drugs from that residence," Hite explained.
"Without having a confidential source or someone to 'intro' an undercover officer, the chances of us buying are almost zero," he said.
So while complainants or tipsters may remain anonymous, Hite strongly advises people to identify themselves. Names will remain confidential, but with an identified complainant, police can get more details -- did they actually witness drug transactions? -- or to clarify what it is that they're seeing -- is it really a drug house or more a "party house"?
In some locations, "it's hard to 'surveil,'" he said. "Then I'll ask these people if an officer can come over as a guest and see what they're seeing from their residence."
Still, Hite says he understands why people are reluctant to identify themselves. In that case, he asks that complainants "be as descriptive as possible, try to narrow your complaint down to particular days of the week and within two-hour time frames where (the alleged drug activity is) the heaviest."
He also said to give as much description of the suspects involved, vehicles involved, etc.
Hite is sympathetic that you and your neighbors may be frustrated that nothing has happened even after complaints were made. But HPD will close a complaint if, after two checks, nothing is verified.
With a "good complaint," police will have more to work on, Hite said.
"If you give a good complaint, with your name and phone number, chances of me helping you are greater," he said.
Police can also let you know what the status of the investigation is.
When are they going to clean the freeways of the trash? There is so much trash on the freeway and it's been piling up for months. It's so sad that people have to see it, especially tourists and guests from the mainland. It's on H-2 and H-1, especially by the airport. -- Rose
(We passed your complaint on to the state Department of Transportation, which previously cited a shortage of workers and a hiring freeze for decimating the freeway cleaning crew.
(Call the Department of Transportation's hot line at 831-6714 to report problem areas.)
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