Lee Cataluna: Who is going to clean up criminal activity on Oahu?
One week ago, on a Friday afternoon, a grandmother in her 60s was watching her 2-year-old grandchild at home in Palolo.
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One week ago, on a Friday afternoon, a grandmother in her 60s was watching her 2-year-old grandchild at home in Palolo. The worst thing that should happen in a situation like that is that the neighbor’s unruly dogs bark too much and interrupt the
toddler’s nap or grandma runs out of the baby’s favorite snack.
What happened that day was unimaginable in most people’s vision of Hawaii: Two strangers forced their way into the house, pointed a handgun, tied up grandma and ransacked the house.
Monday night, a woman in her 60s, visiting from Japan, was walking back to her Waikiki hotel room with her son when she was robbed and her son beaten by thieves working as part
of a gang of criminals roaming the streets, targeting unsuspecting victims and driving off into the night.
In the past several weeks, there have been broad-
daylight carjackings and broad-daylight burglaries and gun violence in neighborhoods. The mayor and police chief say that there
is no increase in overall crime, but it takes only
one brazen incident close
to home to make everyone angry and afraid.
There is a tendency to treat crimes against tourists as somehow worse than crimes against residents, as though news of a visitor being victimized will spread and taint the ceaseless marketing of Hawaii as a safe place to spend money. Rob a local lady and the neighborhood is on edge, but rip off a tourist lady and suddenly there’s a news conference and promises.
There used to be the opposite evaluation, unspoken except perhaps in closed quarters, that if tourists were getting their rental cars broken into or their wallets stolen off some remote beach, that was bad but at least better than having those thieves turn on the folks who live here. After all, tourists have money to burn if they’re vacationing in
Hawaii. Most people who live here couldn’t afford to vacation here.
But ripping off a tourist is not better or worse than ripping off a local resident. It is the same — equally criminal, equally shocking in a place like Hawaii where everyone should feel safe.
In the media coverage of these crimes, there is often a “what you can do” list tacked onto the end of the story that offers tips for avoiding becoming a victim. Some of the tips are better than others, but none of the suggestions would have prevented the Palolo home invasion or many of the other incidents of violence against innocent people that have occurred in this islandwide crime wave we seem to be suffering.
As with so many things
on Oahu, the solution comes down to political will and political power. We need a fully staffed police department, a scandal-free prosecutor’s office and prison facilities where there’s
room for more because clearly, there are people
out here who should be
in there. All that needs to happen immediately.
A powerful politician could clean up crime. Who is the most powerful politician in the state right now?
Trick question. There isn’t one.
But we’re heading into an election year, and politicians are going to want to look like they’re listening to people and able to get stuff done. It’s up to voters to push for straight answers and real
action to make Hawaii safe again. Not down the road, not just in the next fiscal
cycle, but right now. Tonight. And not just safe on the streets in Waikiki, but safe in our own homes.