Garden Isle still safest place in Hawai’i

Kauai is still the safest county to live in.

Serious crime on Kaua’i is down 10.2 percent from 2000, but increased on all other islands.

Property crimes, including burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson, decreased by 8.7 percent.

According to the Attorney General’s 2001 Uniform Crime Reports, 2001 marked the fourth-lowest point since 1975, when data collection was started. The index crime rate in Hawai’i reached an all-time low in 1999 and second-lowest in 2000.

The Hawaii Index Crime rate includes property crimes and violent crimes like murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault reported during calendar year 2001 per 100,000 residents. A total of 65,947 crimes were reported in the state during 2001, or 5,386 offenses per 100,000 residents. On Kaua’i, 2,346 total crimes were reported, or 3,961 per capita.

Hawai’i ranks 6th highest in the country for total index crimes per capita; 43rd for violent crimes and 2nd for property crimes. In 2000, Hawai’i ranked No. 1 for larceny-theft, which the Attorney General’s office considers the least serious of the serious crimes.

Nationally, 88 percent of crimes were property crimes and 12 percent were violent crimes. In Hawai’i, 95 percent were property crimes.

On Kaua’i, there were 2,250 property crimes, or 95.9 percent, and 96 violent crimes, or 4.1 percent. In 2000, there were 2,434 property crimes and 144 violent crimes reported.

Motor vehicle theft was the only serious crime to increase, from 79 in 2000 to 96 in 2001.

In 2001, there were two murders compared with six in 2000. There were 15 forcible rapes reported in 2001; 23 in 2000. In 2000, there were 12 robberies; down from 14 in 2000. There were 67 assaults in 2001, down 34 from 2000’s 101.

Violent crimes do often get the most attention, County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Soong said, but the Kaua’i numbers are lower per capita compared to the state, and with the largest decrease compared to 2000, down 34.2 percent.

“The biggest problem is the increase of property crimes, including car break-ins, larceny theft and burglary,” Soong said.

The increase in car break-ins can be attributed in part to what he sees as the most considerable problem facing island residents – drug and “ice” (crystal methamphetamine) abuse, Soong said.

The rates are indicative of police clearing a lot of cases and the prosecutor’s office’s efforts in prosecuting immediately if the evidence warrants it; instead of releasing people for further police investigation, Soong said. It’s a good indication that the criminal justice system is working here, Soong said.

Deputy Police Chief Wilfred Ihu agreed, calling drugs and motor-thefts from vehicles the two major crime problems on the island.

“These people who are doing it – it’s all over the place; probably the same people are involved and they’re moving from one area of the island to the next,” Ihu said.

“Having a blue-and-white parked in the neighborhoods is enough of a presence to discourage criminals,” Ihu said.

Just about 100 percent of KPD officers take home their patrol vehicles, a program started in 1997 to boost department morale and increase police presence. The KPD is short about 15 officers from its 130-officer capacity.

“With the shortage we have, I think we’re doing a pretty good job,” Ihu said.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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