Column: When it comes to gambling crackdowns, Hawaii is all in — with help from the feds
Kenji Price, U.S. attorney for Hawaii, last week announced new federal investigations into illegal gambling outfits in Hawaii. Price kicked off the action by saying the local- federal joint investigation has identified 80 illegal Oahu game rooms in both commercial areas and residential neighborhoods.
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Kenji Price, U.S. attorney for Hawaii, last week announced new federal investigations into
illegal gambling outfits in
Hawaii. Price kicked off the action by saying the local-
federal joint investigation has identified 80 illegal Oahu game rooms in both commercial areas and residential neighborhoods.
Doesn’t it seem that when a real clean sweep against the crooks is needed, we have to look to feds to bring out the big brooms?
Already the feds have grabbed 60 illegal gambling machines and approximately $150,000.
Price, a Mililani High School and University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate and former U.S. Army Ranger, said about
80 properties may be involved in gambling activity. His office is looking to seize two homes and planning to take more property.
The reason, Price said, is that these properties are being used for illegal gambling activity, and so may be grabbed through criminal or civil asset forfeiture.
What about the local police? Police Chief Susan Ballard was at Price’s news conferences, saying, “When it comes to the gambling houses, some people say, ‘Hey, it’s only gambling,’ but it’s not.
“The crime that we’re seeing, the guns, the stabbing,
it always, for the most part, 95% of the time, is traced back to either illegal gambling or drug activity.”
What was not mentioned is that HPD no longer can even investigate all crimes, let alone bust the bad guys.
Earlier this year, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that because of a shortage of 257 officers, HPD is unable to investigate many common crimes, including burglaries.
Ballard said in August that victims of some nonviolent, less-serious crimes are getting a letter from HPD saying the department doesn’t have the resources to investigate unless some new information turns up.
At the same time, Honolulu cops and gambling history have not always been above reproach.
It was the FBI back in 2006 that charged four police officers and one former officer with trying to protect illegal gambling involving cockfights, craps and card games. The raids were the result of a two-year federal investigation that ended in the conviction of several officers.
Cockfighting has long had a place in Honolulu gambling lore. Back in 1968,
95 persons were arrested on a total of 724 charges in a series of police raids in Maili.
Police said the coordinated raids were the result of three months of investigation. The year before, police said they set a record by arresting
574 people in a May 1967 raid. Many of those arrested had actually just been attending the cockfights, not gambling or sponsoring the fights.
It would be good to know that local police can effectively enforce local laws — but if it takes the federal government, that’s better than turning away and ignoring the problems.