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Hawaii News

Kaneshiro to reshape crime office

Newly elected city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro says he plans to reorganize the office with specialized prosecution units and intends to run in 2012 for a four-year term to ensure they are not disbanded.

Kaneshiro, 61, will return to the position he held for two four-year terms before he left 14 years ago when he chose not to run for a third term.

But in hindsight, he says, he left too early because his programs were eliminated, and he plans to run two years from now in hopes of holding on to the job so that does not happen again.

"I don’t want to just start a program and then somebody goes in there and disbands the program," Kaneshiro said during an interview yesterday.

Kaneshiro was elected in the nonpartisan, winner-take-all special election Saturday to fill the remaining two years of the term of Peter Carlisle, who resigned to run for mayor, an election he won.

Carlisle had held the office since Kaneshiro left in 1996.

Kaneshiro won the election by drawing 83,055 votes, followed by acting First Deputy Prosecutor Franklin Pacarro Jr. with 63,032 and former Deputy Prosecutor and former state Labor Director Darwin Ching with 30,865.

He said will be sworn in after the city clerk certifies the election results, which will be Oct. 8 at the earliest.

Kaneshiro said he will set up the units for domestic violence, sex assaults, illegal drugs, serious violent juvenile crimes and white-collar crimes, which would include financial and physical abuse of seniors.

He said the units would include paralegals, victim counselors, investigators and prosecutors working together. Each unit would be trained to develop expertise in dealing with the problems related to those types of crimes, he said.

Kaneshiro said he sees the drug problem getting worse. He ranks methamphetamine as presenting the greatest problem, followed by prescription drug abuse and marijuana.

He said he plans to renew and establish contacts with law enforcement officials in other countries, such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China and Mexico, to try to cut off the source of drugs coming to Hawaii.

Kaneshiro said he sees a need for a specialized unit on violent juvenile crime because of a rise in youth gangs fueled by an increase of bullying at schools. He said youths who prey on others form gangs, which triggers the victims forming their own gangs for protection.

Kaneshiro, who personally handled prosecutions during his last tenure, said he plans to try cases to highlight crime problems, such as when he prosecuted the 1990 murder trial over a youth gang shooting at Farrington High School.

Kaneshiro will be head of an office with a staff of about 290, including more than 100 deputy prosecutors. He indicated that the deputies he knows can retain their jobs, but said he will evaluate those he does not know.

Kaneshiro declined to say how many would be retained but said he kept more than 80 percent when he defeated incumbent Prosecutor Charles Marsland in the 1988 election.

One deputy who can remain as a trial deputy is Pacarro, Kaneshiro said.

Pacarro went to Kaneshiro’s election headquarters Saturday night and congratulated him. Kaneshiro said he told Pacarro he has a job and to take the time he needed to think about it.

Pacarro, 53, who has spent his entire legal career of 24 years at the prosecutor’s office, said yesterday he appreciated the offer and will consider it. "I love the work and I love the people," Pacarro said.

Ching, 64, said yesterday he plans to return to private practice and "enjoy my (six) grandchildren."

He said he thought Kaneshiro won because he had a solid message that he had the experience to be the prosecutor. "I wish him well, and I’m sure he’ll do his best," Ching said.


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