Pacific News Minute: Nevada Sheriff Visits Tonga to Consult on Gang Problem

Apr 19, 2017

Credit ▲Bonard▼ / Flickr

A sheriff’s captain from Nevada got an unusual assignment last month. Joe Duffy went to the Kingdom of Tonga to help authorities there with a rising drug gang problem. We have details from Neal Conan in Today’s Pacific News Minute.

Every year, the U.S. repatriates about 30 Tongan Nationals following criminal convictions.

“These are not nice people. These are hardcore guys,” Sherifff’s Captain Duffy told the Record Courier newspaper. “You’re dropping them off with a Ph.D. in how to be a gang member.”

Duffy spent a week in Tonga last month, along with US ambassador Judith Cefkin and National Guard Brigadier General Zachary Dozier to deliver what he described as “101 type training” to members of the military and police force at a three day conference. He told the Record Courier that he realized few had any knowledge of American style drug gangs shortly after he landed. On the way from the airport, he saw several graffiti tags that read TCP. He said that translates as Tonga Crip Gangster.

“They didn’t know what it stood for,” he said, “They just don’t have any experience with this.” Duffy suggested the creation of a task force, with people trained to work with Tongans repatriated from Australia and New Zealand as well as the U.S.

Duffy’s been with the Douglas County sheriff’s department for the past 21 years where he helped establish a tri-county anti-gang unit in Nevada. He got the assignment after Tongan officials approached the U.S. Military for help with their gang problem. “It was an unbelievable experience,” he said on his return home. 

And the Record Courier reports that one or two more members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s office will head for Tonga in June, to consult on methamphetamine and other drugs.