Isle edgy in wake of weirdness

A not so vague sense of uneasiness is casting a peculiar hue over the easy pace

of life on Kaua’i.

A Hanalei resident, upset at an unusual number of

criminal reports in his North Shore neighborhood, suggested that people should

think about arming themselves.

Another, worried that the police department

wasn’t doing its job, reminded this newspaper of its duty to report all

criminal incidents.

In the wake of the murder of a Hanapape woman, people

in this tiny Westside community have altered their daily habits, suddenly wary

of blurred perils they’re not accustomed to worrying about.

The other night

I woke with a start when a light breeze rattled blinds in the windows above my

bed. Worse, I had to talk myself out of fantasizing some strange omen when a

bright red and very confused bird spent hours in the dead of night assaulting

the lighted windows of my second-story bedroom.

For the past two months,

big bold headlines above stories on the front page of this newspaper have told

tales of violent crime and reported bizarre incidents of missing persons. These

aren’t the kind of stories we’re used to reporting. And the frequency of their

occurrence in this short period of time may be unprecedented.

There’s no

apparent pattern to these incidents. No rational person could link the ghastly

death of an ‘Ele’ele woman set afire by her husband in the heat of a domestic

argument to the eerie disappearance of an Amfac sugar worker in the middle of a

work shift.

And it’s hard, but not impossible, to connect the

disappearance of a New York visitor to the murder of a troubled Hanapepe

woman.

Those are the high profile cases. The rest—a spate of sexual

assaults, continued reports of assaults in the public schools, domestic

violence, a visitor beaten and robbed in Hanalei—are serving to put this

community on edge.

With no apparent pattern to explain this sudden surge in

crime, there is a natural tendency for people to attempt to make sense of it

one way or the other.

One woman speculates that long-time residents are

beginning to feel pressured by the rising flow of visitors and influx of new

residents. They’re irritated by the traffic, the crowds and a sense that their

needs will not be addressed in the hustle for more tourist trade.

They’re

worried, she said, that their peaceful, laid-back lifestyle will disappear, and

they’re taking out their anxiety on anyone who crosses their path.

Others

are blaming our law enforcement officers for failing to make arrests that can

lead to convictions.

I’m not blaming anyone or anything, though there is

reason to be concerned that growth of the tourist trade and its ability to

stress the already feeble infrastructure and swell the resident population

could threaten Kaua’i’s treasured lifestyle.

There is simply no reason to

believe that this run on violence is anything more than a series of random

events that by fate, alignment of the planets, or simply the idiosyncrasies of

human nature have occurred in a cluster over a relatively brief period of

time.

That said, there is every reason to be concerned that something is

out of balance in the universe according to Kaua’i.

It would help if the

police department would get a break on one of these cases or if something

particularly uplifting came along to warm our collective hearts and distract us

from the tragedy of it all.

For the moment, it seems important to focus on

the comments of a reader who called last week to say that he enjoys reading The

Garden Island because the coverage is so positive. His complaint was with the

section that covers the world. Too negative, he said.

Usually, when someone

registers that sort of view, I say that it’s hard to report negative news on

this island because there’s so little of it. But this man was making his

observations after weeks of headlines describing miserable events.

I

mentioned that coverage to him. He simply brushed it off. A few isolated

incidents of violent crime on Kaua’i are nothing compared to other places he

has lived. This island is a special place, he said. We need to support its

positive aspects. And with that, he vowed to find ways to provide this

newspaper with more good news.

This man’s perspective helped bring balance

to at least one person whose view of this tiny island universe had blurred

under the weight of what seemed like a tragedy a week over a very long period

of time.

Kaua’i may have temporarily lost its equilibrium, and there is no

guarantee that the bad news spree in progress has run its course, but, on

balance, the sun still comes up every day and—if you keep the faith—life’s

still pretty good.

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