Visitors have ombudsman in VASK

Car break-in most common crime

by Amanda C. Gregg – THE GARDEN ISLAND

Ensuring visitors who spent $1.3 billion on Kaua‘i in 2006 will be well-cared for if they return, the Visitor Aloha Society of Kaua‘i has been working with police to reduce crime against tourists.

The figure for the amount visitors spent in 2007 is not yet available.

According to data compiled from reports made to the Kaua‘i Police Department, the most common crime that occurred against tourists in 2007 and 2006 was unlawful entry of a motorized vehicle.

Of the approximate 305 tourist car break-ins that took place last year, the highest amount — 92 — occurred in District 1, which covers Hanama‘ulu, Kipu, Lihu‘e and Puhi.

Lookouts such as Kipu Falls and Ke‘e Beach also have been targets for vehicle break-ins, according to Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry.

Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau and president of VASK, recently met with the new police chief to see what can be done collaboratively between the two entities to reduce crime. One step Perry has taken includes creating a survey that rates a visiting victim’s interaction with police.

Though discussions on what can further be done are still underway, VASK and the KPD have already been working together to address crime involving tourists, Kanoho said.

Though tourists are reminded via the visitor’s channel to use the same safety measures they use at home, such as locking the doors of their cars and leaving valuables out of plain sight, VASK also recently printed a small card for the concierges on-island, in case they hear of an incident that has not been reported to KPD, Kanoho said.

VASK also prints a small card that is given to all the patrol officers to distribute. When an officer encounters a visitor who has been a victim of crime, they can provide the card and ask the visitor to call.

Perry said he doesn’t think thieves target tourists specifically, but that they are “opportunists” who, if they see valuables that are within reach, will take them, whether from a rental car or more local-looking car.

“A lot of times the motive is drug related,” Perry said.

VASK primarily responds to visitors who are victims of crime, on a case-by-case basis and also has helped in a few medical emergencies.

Though the entity does not reimburse visitors or compensate them, Kanoho described what is done as, “… we just try to extend a hand to say ‘I’m sorry this happened.’”

Police officers have been asked to give visiting victims of crime, information to reach a VASK “dispatcher.” Should the victim choose to call the number, which is manned 24/7, the person at the other end of the line is there to help determine what their needs are, including any emergency needs such as refilling a medication, replacement of glasses, replacement of credit cards, etc.

The VASK dispatcher also can assist with Hospice care should that be necessary, Kanoho said

The dispatchers then determine what, if anything is needed. Some tourists use the card, some don’t, she said.

“Sometimes it’s just listening to how they feel. …Other times we try to assess the situation and then arrange for a complimentary boat tour for two (or something similar), or a bag of Kaua‘i goodies, or just a lei and a card.”

According to the most recent statistics available from the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau, tourists visiting Hawai‘i who choose to island hop spend the largest chunk of their vacation time on Kaua‘i.

The average length-of-stay for visitors in 2006 in Kaua‘i was 6.3 days, compared with the following length of stays for the Neighbor Islands: 4.6 days in O‘ahu, 3.75 days in Maui, 3.5 days on the Big Island and 1.63 and 1.62 days for Moloka‘i and Lana‘i, respectively.

To learn about the county’s Tourism Strategic Plan, go to


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