AG report: Kaua’i crime up drastically in first half of 2002

The Kaua’i Crime Index is up 39 percent over the first six months of 2002, according to a report issued Monday by the state Attorney General’s office, with violent crime up 71.7 percent.

The report shows that Kaua’i is by far the county with the highest rate of crime growth in Hawai’i over the first half of this year. Crime indexes for other counties for the same time period showed the City and County of Honolulu up 16.8 percent, Maui County down 5 percent and Hawai’i County up 3.6 percent.

Aggravated assaults reported on Kaua’i numbered 60 in the first six months of 2002, seven more than the total for the same time period in 2001, the report shows.

The semi-annual crime report was prepared by the Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division and shows Kaua’i had the highest increase in total reported violent crimes and property crimes of all counties in the state. Murder, rape and robbery rates made no change from 2001.

Police Chief George Freitas attributed the rise in crime to drugs, a shift in demographics and being the county with the smallest population in the state outside of tiny Kalawao County, which may be skewing the crime rate increase counts when comparing Kaua’i County to populous O’ahu and other Neighbor Island counties.

“We’ve been aware of this since the beginning of the year, and have been issuing crime reports that reflect that,” Freitas said, referring to the reports read at monthly meetings of the Kaua’i Police Commission.

Because the population of Kaua’i is small compared with other counties a small number of crimes could inflate crime statistics, Freitas added. For example, in 2001, there were nine total robberies reported. So far this year, Freitas counted 13 reported robberies – a 44 percent increase when compared to the first six months of 2001.

Freitas said he attended a law enforcement executive training session held at the FBI National Academy about in the mid-1990s, where researchers warned to expect a crime wave due to demographic shifts in people defined as “at-risk.”

Some offenses may be drug related, Freitas said. “This is an alarm that tells us we’d better get started on this,” Freitas said, referring to Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s stance on eradicating drugs from Kaua’i.

The biggest jump for all counties was motor vehicle thefts, with 4,626 reported stolen statewide, up 43.1 percent from 2001.

Auto thefts were up 60 percent in Kaua’i County, 54.4 percent in Maui County, 44.8 percent in Honolulu, and 6.1 percent in Hawai’i County.

Maui County, with little more than double the population but the closest in size to Kaua’i County (pop. 59,223) , was the only county to report decreases in violent and property crimes.

Maui had a 5 percent decrease in property crimes, and Kaua’i reported a 37.6 percent increase compared to the same period in 2001. Kaua’i had 1,343 property crimes compared to Maui’s 3,747.

“As of the end of November, that 37 percent (increase) is down to 35 percent, and that’s bad news. Thirty-five percent is still an incredibly high increase,” Freitas explained.

While the crime rate has increased since reaching a record low in 1999, the current figures are on par with the state’s average crime rate over the past decade, said Paul Perrone, Attorney General’s Office Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division chief of research.

“A double-digit change in either direction, that’s a pretty significant change,” Perrone said. “The perspective that’s important to keep in mind is that after all that, we’re kind of at average levels right now.”

Crime rates have increased since about 2000, but Kaua’i had been “enjoying the luxury of decreased crime rates for 7-8 years,” Freitas added.

Violent crime on Kaua’i went up, again with the highest increase of all four counties, 39.1 percent – due to a 122 percent increase in aggravated assaults, or 60 reported offenses.

In 1999, there were 14 total reported aggravated assaults. In 2000, there were 70, and 53 in 2001.

With an increase in crime, KPD officers also improved in arrest rates for violent crime offenders, making 58 arrests of 78 total reported offenses, a 100 percent increase from January – June 2001.

Of the 60 reported aggravated assaults, 47 offenders were arrested, a 113.6 percent increase. Four of 11 rape offenders were arrested, no change from 2001.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252). The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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