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On Oahu, crime up

  • FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Honolulu police officer Paula Nakamura checks her computer before leaving on patrol at the Wahiawa police substation.
  • FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Officer Chad Hiwatashi tests his speed-laser gun prior to going out on speed enforcement patrol.
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Major crimes were up in every police district on Oahu last year, with the police coverage area that encompasses Wahiawa, Mililani and much of the North Shore seeing a 19 percent spike and Pearl City reporting an 8 percent increase, according to new police statistics.

The numbers, which follow a long downward trend in crime, are worrying some community and business leaders, prompting growing participation in neighborhood watches and patrols.

"Nowadays it just pays to know who your neighbors are and who belongs in the neighborhood," said Meri Peter, coordinator for a neighborhood security watch in Wahiawa.

Police point out crime overall is still down when compared with 2007, and stress several districts saw slight increases — property crimes in central Honolulu nudged up by 2 percent; all major crimes in east Honolulu went up 1.5 percent.

But other neighborhoods saw more major crime increases. Violent crimes in the Kapolei-Waianae district rose 24 percent to 457, with the number of rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults all going up.

And there were 3,570 major crimes reported in Waikiki last year, a 7 percent increase over the year before.

Thefts alone rose 8 percent, increasing to 2,550.

In the police district that includes Wahiawa, Mililani and the North Shore, thefts skyrocketed 63 percent, to 2,550 from 1,566 last year. Meanwhile, the number of rapes more than doubled, to 41. And there were 123 robberies reported, up from 62 in 2008.

Crime in the district also was up by 15 percent overall compared to 2007 but down from 2006, when there were 3,587 major crimes.

"The town of Wahiawa is generally peaceful, but lately there have been burglaries, larcenies," said Ben Acohido, chairman of the Wahiawa Neighborhood Board. "It’s a community concern."

It’s unclear what’s behind the increases in crime, police say, though in the past they’ve warned crime goes up during tough economic times.

Nationally, though, that has not been the case. Violent crime nationwide dropped 5.5 percent in 2009, according to FBI statistics, while property crime declined by 4.9 percent.

Police stress the Oahu crime trends follow years of declining crime numbers.

"Honolulu continues to be one of the safest major cities in the nation," Police Chief Louis Kealoha said in a statement. "Property crime rose slightly in 2009 due to an increase in larceny thefts. While this figure is up, it is still lower than it was in 2007 and previous years."

Wendy Atabay, a community policing team officer at the Wahiawa police station, said one way that police are trying to tackle crime is by tracking spot trends.

For example, car break-ins on the North Shore jumped to 10 during the week of Feb. 22 from four the week before. The following week also saw 10 break-ins. In response, police saturated affected areas as much as manpower allowed, Atabay said. Break-ins started to drop almost immediately.

The district that includes Wahiawa and Mililani covers one-third of the island (more than 200 square miles) and has some 6,000 households participating in 350 security watch programs.

Peter, of the Wahiawa security watch, said more people appear to be participating in watches than in the past as they see crime increase in their neighborhoods. Some of those newcomers are crime victims, she said.

"There has been more crime in our area," she said.

Overall last year, property crime on Oahu increased 5 percent in 2009, ending a six-year trend of declining offenses.

The spike in property crimes, coupled with a 1.5 percent decline in violent crimes, left Oahu with an overall increase in crime of 4.6 percent.

Last year, there were 33,375 property crimes on Oahu, compared with 31,781 in 2008 and 37,197 the year before. Meanwhile, there were 2,537 violent crimes reported in 2009 — down from 2,575 the year before.

Patty Teruya, chairwoman of the Nanakuli/ Maili Neighborhood Board, said she believes the economy is to blame for increases in mostly property crimes in her community.

Thefts drove the crime increases in the district that runs from Kapolei to Waianae, while rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults also increased slightly. Auto thefts and burglaries dropped.

Teruya said she’s concerned that crime will only continue to rise as social service programs see more funding cuts and are forced to turn away people in need. "We’re going to see major hurt within the society because of the budget crunch," she said.

The new district-by-district figures were included in HPD’s annual report, released this month, which also showed the number of people arrested in connection with major crimes rose 19 percent in 2009 to 4,785. Of those, 3,346 were adults, up from 2,721 the year before.

 

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