Continuing our series on County Department leadership, reflecting the role of government in responding to community values and needs.
While residents enjoy the peace of living on an island with a relatively low crime rate, the job of maintaining public safety falls to Maui County Police Chief Gary Yabuta and the more than 400 employees of the Maui Police Department. “I have a great team,” said Yabuta, who joined the department as an officer in March 1983 and became chief in June 2009. “It’s a diverse organization with a variety of people who have highly technical skills.” “The greatest resource we have is our officers and our employees,” he said.
As of mid-December, the department has 344 officers out of 375 positions allocated and another 117 civilian employees. Yabuta has taken the step of opening dialogues with communities, holding several public meetings this past year. “I enjoy working with the community,” he said. “Our goal is to remove the fears of the community in their own neighborhoods.” Yabuta said his department is working hard to develop community partnerships and educate the community about crime. One of those steps was to develop, with the assistance of The Maui News, the weekly Crime Watch feature on Mondays that reports on property crimes throughout Maui County.
Another effort has been to continue work with establishing Neighborhood Crime Watch groups, which are organized neighborhood, residential or retail areas that come together to look out for each other and report suspicious activity to police. There are at least 45 such groups throughout Maui County, and Yabuta said he’d like to see more. The department continues its efforts to educate young people about the dangers of drugs and alcohol through its drug and alcohol resistance program, better known as DARE. That program has expanded to include anti-bullying education. Yabuta acknowledged that many officers and civilians in his department also work closely with the community on their own time, participating in a variety of charitable fundraisers and community events. “It’s not the chief telling them to do this. Good officers, good employees, they make the time to assist and help their own community; it’s what makes great character and a good law enforcement officer and employee.”
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