ARCHIVED Skip nagivation.To Contents     To Previous Page     To Next Page     To Publications Page     To Home Page


Drug traffickers exploit Hawaii's heavy reliance on the importation of consumer goods by air and maritime conveyances to transport illicit drugs to the state. Illicit drugs are transported primarily into the Honolulu International Airport on Oahu through the international postal facility or by couriers aboard commercial flights. While most of the illicit drugs transported to Oahu are abused there, some drugs are transported on interisland flights to neighboring islands for subsequent distribution. Additionally, six of the eight islands have direct flight service to and from major cities on the U.S. mainland, Asia, and Canada; these services facilitate the transportation of illicit drugs from these locations. Hawaii's system of commercial harbors consists of 10 harbors on six islands through which most imported goods enter the state; however, limited information and resources make detection and interdiction efforts at these facilities extremely challenging for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and other law enforcement officials.

Mexican DTOs are the primary transporters of most illicit drugs available in the state from the west coast of the U.S. mainland. Mexican DTOs use their well-developed networks to transport wholesale quantities of ice methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin across the U.S.-Mexico border to drug markets, primarily in California and Nevada, where the drugs are divided into smaller quantities and subsequently shipped to Hawaii. Mexican DTOs also transport ice methamphetamine produced in California into Hawaii. Asian DTOs are increasingly transporting illicit drugs into Hawaii--particularly high-potency marijuana from Canada, northern California, and Washington, and ice methamphetamine and heroin from Asia. Asian traffickers also use Hawaii as a transshipment point for ice methamphetamine transported from the U.S. west coast to the Pacific Basin, primarily Guam.

To Top     To Contents



Mexican DTOs and criminal groups dominate wholesale drug distribution in the Hawaii HIDTA region, supplying primarily other Mexican, Polynesian, and local criminal groups. These groups in turn supply midlevel quantities to retail distributors--primarily street gangs and independent dealers.

Retail drug sales in metropolitan areas take place in open-air markets (located on streets and in parking lots) and in clubs and bars, particularly in the Chinatown area of Oahu. Retail drug sales in rural areas usually take place at prearranged locations and typically are between dealers and known or referred customers. Law enforcement reporting indicates that distributors use cell phones, satellite phones, pagers, and other personal communication devices to communicate with suppliers and customers. In addition, distributors often use text messages consisting of code words that allow them to communicate with reduced risk of detection. Cell phones are used for a limited time (often no more than 30 days) before switching to a new phone and number to further reduce the possibility of having calls monitored.

To Top     To Contents


Drug-Related Crime

Most of the crimes perpetrated in Hawaii are drug-related, particularly involving methamphetamine. According to Western States Information Network (WSIN), more than half of the critical events7 events reported in Hawaii in 2007 were drug-related. The number of critical events attributed to methamphetamine (1,294) was higher than the number for all other drug types combined, despite a decrease in methamphetamine-related incidents from 2005 to 2007. (See Table 4). All Hawaii state and local law enforcement agencies responding to the NDTS 2007 indicated that methamphetamine was the drug that most contributed to violent crime and property crime in their jurisdictions. Additionally, data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show that 29 of the 48 cases investigated in Hawaii in 2007 were drug-related; of those, 20 were methamphetamine-related.

Table 4. Drug-Related Critical Events in Hawaii, 2005-2007

Drug 2005 2006 2007 Percent Change
Methamphetamine 1,773 1,411 1,294 -27
Marijuana 67 145 128 91
Cocaine 69 124 122 77
Heroin 17 12 92 441
Other drugs* 31 68 71 129
Not specified 321 1,232 438 NA

Source: Western States Information Network.
*Other drugs include precursor chemicals, hallucinogens, pharmaceutical drugs, steroids, narcotic equipment, and currency.
NA--Not applicable.

Drug abusers in Hawaii are increasingly committing property crimes, including burglaries, vehicle break-ins, and identity theft, to acquire money to purchase methamphetamine and other illicit drugs. According to the U. S. Secret Service in Honolulu, these individuals, sometimes working cooperatively in organized groups, are targeting not only homes but also automobiles parked in public areas such as beaches, parks, or scenic lookouts to steal cash, valuables, and personal identification information. Tourists are especially at risk in these locations. In January 2008, while investigating a local methamphetamine trafficking organization, federal law enforcement officers discovered that the organization was also involved in obtaining stolen personal identifiers and creating fraudulent identification documents used in the negotiation of counterfeit payroll checks. The fraud investigation, the largest in state history, revealed that the identities of more than 3,000 individuals had been compromised, with a total fraud loss exceeding $1 million. Individuals involved in this crime used computer equipment including an all-in-one copier/scanner/printer to produce fraudulent documents; officials seized 69 altered drivers' licenses, 15 altered Social Security cards, 6 altered U.S. passports, 4 altered U.S. military identification cards, 22 counterfeit credit cards, and 300 altered payroll checks.

Illegal cannabis cultivation operations are increasingly the sites of home invasion robberies, particularly on the Big Island. HIDTA officials report that many of these robberies go unreported because the victims do not want to alert law enforcement to their own illicit activities. HIDTA law enforcement officials report that indoor cultivators increasingly possess weapons to protect their operations from home invasion robbers.

Some drug-related criminal activity in Hawaii can be attributed to members of Hispanic and African American street gangs and Caucasian OMGs who are relocating from the mainland (primarily California and Nevada) to establish drug distribution operations based on their connections to sources of supply in the United States and Mexico. Since 2005, ICE officials and other law enforcement participants in Operation Community Shield8 in the Hawaii HIDTA region have arrested 16 members and associates of various street gangs, including Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13), Sureņos (Sur 13), 18th Street Gang, and Crips.

End Notes

7. Western States Information Network (WSIN) defines a critical event as a law enforcement activity that requires law enforcement agents or officers to respond to a predetermined location to conduct a proactive investigation.
8. To combat the escalating problem of transnational and other violent street gangs across the country, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched Operation Community Shield in February 2005 in partnership with other federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and probation officers. This initiative focuses on developing a comprehensive and integrated approach in conducting criminal investigations and other law enforcement operations against these violent street gang members.

To Top     To Contents     To Previous Page     To Next Page

To Publications Page     To Home Page


End of page.