May 21—”Hot spots ” policing and community involvement are among the factors responsible for a drop in major crimes on Oahu last year, according to local law enforcement officials.
“Hot spots ” policing and community involvement are among the factors responsible for a drop in major crimes on Oahu last year, according to local law enforcement officials.
Honolulu Police Department statistics for 2022 show declines in seven of the eight major violent and property offense categories. The only category to show an increase was murder, which rose to 25 last year compared to 21 in 2021. There were 261 rapes recorded on Oahu last year, down from 293 in 2021. Robberies dropped to 782 from 795 in 2021, and there were 1, 266 aggravated assaults compared to 1, 407 in 2021.
Property crimes, which made up more than 91 % of crimes on Oahu last year, fell to 24, 117 in 2022 from 28, 349 the previous year, with the biggest decline recorded in the number of thefts : There were 17, 596 larceny thefts in 2022, down from 20, 079 cases in 2021.
Burglaries fell to 2, 470 last year from 3, 454 in 2021, and motor vehicle thefts dropped to 4, 051 from 4, 816 in 2021.
HPD Chief Arthur “Joe ” Logan attributed the reduction in crime to an array of factors including low unemployment and the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions. Logan, who took over from interim Chief Rade Vanic in June, lauded Vanic’s work and said the continuity of leadership since last summer has helped HPD’s various divisions focus on the most pressing issues in their areas of responsibility.
“For the first five months of 2023, crime is down. We’re doing things right, ” Logan said. “The community is getting involved. The community wants to take action and take back their communities.
“The people took charge and took action. ‘Hot spots’ policing is one of those things that I thought was important. Communities are watching out for each other.”
“Hot spots ” policing strategies allow law enforcement agencies to focus their limited resources on smaller geographic areas or places where crime is most likely to occur, usually in urban settings, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Logan credited community policing teams in each of HPD’s eight patrol districts with organizing and supporting neighborhood security watches and educating residents about how to prevent crime and report issues to police.
The pervasiveness of home security systems, which can be monitored from applications on any mobile device, also likely contributed to a reduction in property crimes, especially residential burglaries. Thieves may be less inclined to create visual evidence of their crimes that is stored on a third-party server accessible by the homeowner and police, he said.
Patrol officers’ focus on traffic enforcement and policing their beats is critical to crime prevention, Logan added.
“There is a direct correlation between traffic enforcement and crime (reduction ) in general in your neighborhood. I want to see that continue or increase in each of our districts, ” he said. “I’d like to get away from social service calls. I think there’s momentum between the state and county to assist … in those realms and take some of the burden off of law enforcement.”
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm, a former state judge and U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii, said he is “pleased to see the numbers heading in the right direction, ” and highlighted work to secure the hub of Oahu’s visitor industry.
“I think you can credit good police work, citizen participation and support, initiatives including Weed and Seed, and Safe and Sound Waikiki, and the collaborative efforts of city, state and federal law enforcement in Honolulu. The mayor and City Council have made public safety a priority, ” Alm said.
“Waikiki has experienced a significant decline in the number of cases initiated by police since the Safe and Sound initiative began in September of last year. For example, when comparing the first quarter of this year with the first quarter of last year, robberies are down 64 %, burglary is down 25 %, and assault is down 15 %. The data is encouraging, but we’ve got to continue to work hard to maintain this momentum.”
According to HPD data, the number of murders, robberies and assaults involving firearms also declined, to 345 last year from 388 in 2021, while cases involving knives or cutting instruments increased to 514 from 470 in 2021.
But with more than 370 vacancies at HPD, police officers are stretched thin while doing what they can to ensure public safety, said Stephen Keogh, vice president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers. He said HPD needs to offer more in the way of compensation and benefits to retain officers and recruit quality candidates to bolster its ranks.
“Our officers are working in overdrive to be proactive and to keep our community as safe as possible, ” Keogh said. “However, our serious staffing shortage puts our ability to sustain any success in jeopardy. That’s why it’s incredibly important that the city do everything it can to ensure HPD is a competitive employer so we can retain our current officers, and that the department continues to aggressively recruit new officers ; otherwise, we stand to face a public safety crisis. SHOPO is a willing partner in achieving both goals.”
Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters credited HPD with stepping up and reducing crime after Council members voted to increase the department’s budget by $12 million over the last two years. The Council is poised to increase HPD’s budget again with the “expectation that crime would go down, ” he said.
“I’m happy to hear those statistics, because they followed through and made it happen. Thank you to the community for being more vigilant and working with the community policing teams throughout the island. Weed and Seed, Safe and Sound (Waikiki ), those (programs ) help a lot, ” Waters said. “That’s been Chief Logan’s message and the message of the community policing teams. When you see something amiss, don’t hesitate, call the police.”
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he hopes the decline in crime is indicative, in part, of a community that came to some hard realizations during the COVID-19 pandemic and has emerged committed to maintaining public safety in better times.
“A lot of people have reassessed some things, and I feel we’re in a better place, ” he said. “We’ve asked our police department to step up their game despite their personnel shortage and they have stepped up. It’s a very difficult job, one that requires very unusual bravery and courage. These people are prepared to put their lives on the line in a moment’s notice.”