Commentary submitted on behalf of Brenda Olcott, mother of the child that I reported missing on my blog two days before police put out a missing child report, but removed after she was found:
Aloha Mayor Kenoi and Ms. Shigemura,
As Mayor Kenoi requested in an informal conversation with me, I would like to arrange a meeting with him to discuss my experiences surrounding my daughter’s abduction in November and to share lessons learned so that another child and family can be spared this tragic life changing event. Thank you for your help raising awareness about human trafficking and youth drug abuse by arranging for this conversation. I hope that this email will help provide background for why this conversation is so important.
Five years ago when my father became pastor of Church of the Holy Cross, we chose to call Hilo our home because I wanted my daughter to grow up in a nurturing community. I went to work for Hospice of Hilo and became active in the community, giving back through volunteer work with the YWCA and Hilo Jaycees. Representing the YWCA, I have repeatedly advocated on Capitol Hill for VOCA and helped to secure appropriations for the YWCA sex assault services in Hawaii. Aware of the many issues facing our youth and families, I worked with United Way to begin dialogue between the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA and YWCA to identify ways these organizations can effectively work together in developing youth programs. I care a great deal about our community.
*****, my 15 year old daughter, also dove into community activities. In addition to volunteering with me at the YWCA and with Jaycees, she played soccer, danced, and volunteered at Imiloa. This past fall she enthusiastically started 9th grade at Hilo High School. A good student, she was quickly befriended by a group that had more than friendship in mind. We have since learned that one of the “friends” she made is actually a scout for an active drug and prostitution ring. We have learned that (she) was recruited, introduced to meth, taken away at night while we slept and returned before we woke up, until the night she wasn’t returned.
Following hundreds of leads, she was found 3 days later through a grassroots community effort. The night she came home was the first time we had seen her high. She thinks she was gone a few hours. During the search we learned that there were rumored plans to take her off island and sell her into prostitution. At 48 hours missing, friends hoping she would be alive began to look for her body. In the three days her appearance was transformed, her hair was cut and colored, her clothes discarded and replaced, and she lost 10 pounds. She returned to us addicted to over 15 different drugs. She was offered money for sex and her organs. Her one call home she was told to keep short so that it would not be traced. Healing is now a very long journey. She is now in an 18 month program which is focusing on trauma recovery, helping her find sobriety and to cope with the experience of multiple rapes and violence. The drug addiction she battles most now is “4-MMC” which kept her functional and numb. This drug, created in Israel in 2007 and now banned in many countries, is being produced on our island. It’s my understanding that the plan is to sell this synthetic meth-cocaine compound from our community to the world.
During the experience I was told by police officers that runaways are “unofficially the lowest priority” because it is such a chronic issue. We were told no action would really be taken for 30 days. This message was reiterated by community members and other families who had experienced the same response by police. It is definitely a chronic issue (2008 HPD numbers attached). It is one that can be addressed. We have had an extensive interview with Captain Medeiros at HPD to share our experience. Addressed effectively, treating disappearances as a “high priority” would send a message of deterrence to both youth and perpetrators. In this, case, it would have sent a message to the perpetrators that you cannot just take a child. I understand that the official policy is to treat runaways as a high priority, to question circumstances. It is a policy that needs to be practice. Days after she was returned, a 14 year old girl disappeared under eerily similar circumstances. It took 3 weeks to find her.
When an arrest was made in (My Daughters) case, the only charge was “custodial interference.” Although we had passed on all information learned during the search, there was very little follow up. The woman pleaded “no contest” and was sentenced to one year probation and 60 days with credit for 16 days served and 44 days stayed. She was fined $130 ($55 to the Crime Victim Compensation Fund and $75 probation fee). (My Daughters) recovery is a lifetime. Rehabilitation will cost about $140,000. We requested a temporary restraining order while She was missing, it was denied and we were never notified. I only learned of the sentencing when I initiated a call to the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney to inquire what was happening with our case. It was a week after the sentencing took place and she had been released, we had received no notification of any kind.
During the course of recovering my missing daughter, we learned that there are weekly meth “parties” in the greater Hilo area.
There are opportunities to learn from this nightmare that can save other families. It begins with awareness and dialogue.
Thank you for the opportunity to help our community become more responsive and not so conducive to the actions which have torn our family apart. I look forward to meeting with you soon so that we can further discuss how these concerns might be addressed in our community.
Filed under: Announcements, Big Island, Guest Commentator, Hilo, Kids, Legal | Tagged: Teen Drug & Human Trafficking Concerns in Hilo | 13 Comments »