Police arrested 16 women over the weekend in what appears to be a new crackdown on prostitution in massage parlors.
However, instead of arresting the women and charging them with prostitution, undercover officers are charging the women with fourth-degree sexual assault — a misdemeanor.
In Hawaii, misdemeanors are those crimes that are punishable by up to one year in county or local jail. Conviction of prostitution is a petty misdemeanor — the least serious type of criminal offense in Hawaii, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The arrests began Thursday night with eight women, between the ages of 24 to 48, picked up at establishments near Ala Moana Center.
Police said the operation was conducted in response to public complaints.
The arrests continued Friday and Saturday nights with eight more women arrested on the same sexual assault charge.
All of the women posted bail and have District Court dates beginning at the end of the month.
Fourth-degree sexual assault is defined as sexual contact between two individuals.
Two of the women have been arrested previously for prostitution, but their cases never went to trial because the arresting officers couldn’t make their court dates.