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MPD stationed at Kahului Airport

Special unit tracking down emergency rule, quarantine violators

A sign alerts travelers to the COVID-19 screening last week at Kahului Airport. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui police are on the front lines of protecting the public against quarantine breakers and emergency rule violators with officers stationed at Kahului Airport and the Criminal Intelligence Unit investigating reports of those trying to skirt the law.

At an online Maui Police Commission meeting Wednesday afternoon, police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said four officers in two shifts are now stationed daily at Kahului Airport. Some passengers may become “unruly,” especially when unwilling to answer screeners’ questions pertaining to the mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers.

“You know some of them are unruly, so (with) the presence of our officers we are able to address those issues,” Faaumu told the commission.

In response to a question from a commissioner, Faaumu said having officers at the airport, the point of entry for visitors, also saves the department time and effort when responding to quarantine or rule violation issues arising at the airport.

After the meeting, Faaumu said that officers have been stationed at the airport since Aug. 10. He said officers volunteer for the assignment on overtime so no regular schedules or staffing numbers are disrupted.

So far, it has cost around $14,000 of federal CARES Act funds to have the officers at the airport, Faaumu said.

The Criminal Intelligence Unit has been the focal point of police investigations of the reports of violations. The unit works under the chief’s office and investigates criminal threats coming into or on the island.

The unit receives reports of quarantine breakers and emergency rules and order violators from the department and various agencies, including the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Maui Visitors Bureau. The unit does not handle calls directly from the public.

Faaumu said that the unit has been receiving help from county park rangers, who handle follow-ups in the more difficult to reach places on the island.

Unit officers are available seven days a week; the unit handles as many as 250 referral calls a day, said Faaumu.

The chief said that having dedicated staff to investigate violations helps keep patrol and other officers on their regular beats and assignments. In addition, unit officers have all the information — such as dates and times of visitor arrivals on Maui — needed to make an arrest or citation, unlike a patrol officer tending to the beat.

The need to assign the unit to this task built up when the quarantine for interisland travel was removed in mid-June, Faaumu said. The unit began its COVID-19 responsibilities at the beginning of July.

The unit does monitor email reports to mpdquarantine@mpd.net.

Overall, Faaumu told commissioners that police have handed out 1,069 citations for violating rules and orders since March when the onset of the pandemic began in the state.

Of those citations, 569 were in South Maui, 104 in Central Maui, 211 in West Maui, 35 on Lanai, 56 on Molokai, 23 in East Maui and 49 in Upcountry. There have been 113 arrests for rules and orders or quarantine violations.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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