40 and four more years for Soong

Mike Soong turns 40 in November.

It’s dollars to doughnuts he’ll celebrate

the Big Four-O as the Kaua’i County prosecuting attorney, because Soong is

running unopposed for his second term in that month’s general election.

The

former deputy prosecutor (1991 to 1996) credits his staff of nine attorneys,

two investigators and 14 other personnel for his first-term

successes.

“I’ve been lucky to have good people in the office,” Soong

said.

He hired all new lawyers when he took over four years ago, and he

restructured the office into specialized units, including a federally funded

sexual assault unit.

He also did a little public relations work.

“I

reestablished good relationships with the police,” he said. “We have a good

relationship because we are available to them 24 hours a day. Previously, it

was not always like that.

“We told them to get us involved early on in

cases. We’ll help in the investigation any way we can.”

For example, Soong

and his chief deputy have been to the murder site of Daren Singer, the Maui

woman brutally murdered on the west side of the island last month.

The

father of three young children also has an interest in community affair. His

office supported a juvenile peers court and family mediation, especially for

some misdemeanor offenses.

“The courtroom isn’t the best place to resolve

some of this stuff,” he said.

The biggest crime problem Soong sees on the

island is methamphetamine use and sales.

“Nearly every crime — theft,

burglaries, domestic violence — can be traced to drugs,” he said.

In the

next four years, Soong said, he wants to implement more changes.

“I’d like

to try community-based prosecution, which is a new trend. Traditional

prosecution is reactive. The police make an arrest and then send it to us.

Community-based prosecuting gets your deputy prosecutors out into the

neighborhoods,” Soong said.

It was done on Oahu in the Chinatown district,

where there was “lots of drugs and prostitution. They were able to clean up the

neighborhood,” he said. “We don’t necessarily have those types of districts.

But we want to try and involve business, church and school leaders and reduce

crime at the front end.”

Soong valued his experience as a public defender

for the state of Hawai’i (1987-1989) so much that he has hired more former

defenders.

“It’s good because they can see both sides of a (court)

situation,” he said.

He’s also streamlined the prosecution

process.

“We’ve begun immediate prosecution upon arrest. If (defendants)

can’t make bail, they go to jail. In the old days, police would wait a week or

two to submit a report. Now we get some sort of report within 48 hours,” Soong

said.

He said immediate prosecution works on the felons’ minds,

too.

“They figure they are caught and we make them a plea offer. Once they

get out (before trial if not immediately prosecuted), then they start thinking

maybe they won’t be punished,” he said.

After crediting judges, police and

his staff, Soong takes a modest bow himself.

“Kaua’i has had the lowest

crime rate in the islands the last three years,” he said.

Staff writer

Dennis Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) and

dwilken@pulitzer.net

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