One consistent challenge across all islands in the state is drug abuse. Treatment centers are in short supply and opioid abuse has been on the rise. But local law enforcement officials agree with a finding from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency last year that a particularly severe problem for Hawaiʻi remains crystal methamphetamine.
Hawaiʻi County vice officers cover a long list of crimes: from gambling and prostitution to sex trafficking -- even cruelty to animals. But Captain Reed Mahuna says most of their time is focused on drugs.
"The biggest threat to our community is crystal mehtamphetamine. Itʻs crystal methamphetamine, it's heroin, it's those types of drugs that are really destroying families and people that we all care about."
Mahuna says opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin, are not the crisis here that they are on the mainland. The Big Island's biggest problem is crystal meth, and the problem is growing.
"In 2013 - 2014 we recovered, islandwide, 18.1 pounds of crystal methamphetamine. In 2017 - 2018, we recovered 966 grams of heroin, islandwide. We recovered just over 52 pounds of crystal methamphetamine."
Mahuna says police are seeing meth in every district on the island.
"The scary part, people that use crystal meth are part of our community -- business people, homeless people, there's not a stereotypical crystal meth user."
Mahuna says they've not had a case in the last 10 years of crystal meth being made on the island.
"Most of the precursors come to Mexico from China. Most of the drugs are manufactured by cartels in Mexico. They come over the southern border, they enter Hawaiʻi through cities in central California, mostly, then they're mailed or shipped UPS, Fed Ex."
Hawaiʻi County Police are working to address the problem, but Mahuna says more is needed.
"If we as a community decide we've had enough, if we as a community decide that there's been enough people that we've seen suffer and have their lives destroyed by these drugs, I think that's when the real solution to the problem comes."