HONOLULU (KHON2) — Experts say drug use is still the main cause for the crime surge we’re seeing. That and the pandemic, which made it nearly impossible to check on those who are on probation. Experts shared their thoughts on possible solutions.

The executive director of Habilitat Jeff Nash said there’s been a significant increase in drug users needing some help in part because probation officers were not able to check on former inmates during the pandemic.

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“Basically the whole problem just kind of got left unchecked and now we are seeing the results of that, and yeah, there’s a problem,” said Nash.

He said it is a problem that needs new solutions. While there is already some collaboration between the courts, the prosecutor’s office and drug rehabilitation facilities, he said the time has come for renewed efforts.

“We should bring all the stakeholders together and find out what are the obstacles to making this work smoothly,” said Nash. “What are the limitations? Because there’s certainly some limitations, and come up with some kind of collaborative plan.”

Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm is open to new ideas, and keeping data on solutions that work.

“I think we definitely need more drug treatment beds, mental health beds, dual diagnosis beds if people have both issues, and expand the good programs we have, and maybe even come up with some new ones,” said Alm.

Alm and Nash agreed that the solution for non-violent offenders is treatment because those who commit those crimes are fueled by drugs. Nash knows that from his experience 26 years ago.

“I was addicted to heroin,” said Nash. “I was living down in Chinatown doing all kinds of other drugs and continuing to get arrested and committing crimes, and eventually I got arrested, put in jail.”

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A spokesperson for the Hawaii State Judiciary said in-person meetings with probationers resumed in March. As for collaborating with the different agencies, she said “The Judiciary is active in both leading and participating in this effort and will continue to engage with all agencies and providers to address the safety of our community.”