LIHUE — Criminals are facing hard times on Kauai.
The island saw record lows in crimes involves property, burglary, larceny- theft and motor vehicles, according to the Crime in Hawaii 2015 report, which was released by the Hawaii Crime Prevention and and Justice Assistance Division earlier this month.
“(This) tells us that Kauai is still a safe place to live and raise a family,” said Justin Kollar, prosecuting attorney.
Last year, there were 1,739 crimes reported on Kauai, a 21.8 percent decrease from 2014, when there were 2,224 crimes reported. Just over 1,600 of the reported incidents were property crimes, a decrease of 22 percent from 2014. Violent crimes, 135, made up 7.8 percent.
The most significant decrease is the number of aggravated assault reports, which dropped from 117 to 80 in 2015, according to the report. Aggravated assault reports account for 59 percent of the total number of violent crimes reported last year.
There were 22 robbery reports, making up 16.3 percent of the violent crimes reported. There were 31 robberies reported in 2014.
Burglary decreased by over 200, from 674 to 458. Larceny-theft decreased from 1,251 to 1,069. Motor vehicle theft saw another double-digit decrease, going from 118 to 77, the report said.
While Kollar said it’s too early to know if the results reported in 2015 are long-term trends, he sees it as a hopeful sign.
“Our approach has been to build the best team we can here in the office and then make sure they all have the tools they need to do their job,” Kollar said.
Kollar credits partnership with other stakeholders — like law enforcement agencies and neighborhood watches — to helping lower crime on the island.
“When crime numbers improve, it is easy for us in law enforcement to claim credit, but it really is a reflection on what the entire community is doing,” he said.
Police Chief Darryl Perry agreed.
“The community’s push-back on crime, coupled with aggressive enforcement of serious and habitual offenders, has created an environment where crimes doesn’t pay, and if you do commit a crime and get caught, then you will be held accountable for your behavior,” he said.
There are about 30 neighborhood watch groups islandwide, said Sarah Blane, county spokeswoman.
Over the last several years, Kauai residents have been active in sharing crime-related information via social media.
“Simple things like going for walks in groups, installing motion detector lights and inexpensive home surveillance systems, having a neighborhood Facebook page or email list — these all help reduce opportunities for potential crimes and increase the ability of neighborhoods to protect themselves from being victimized,” Kollar said.
The Kekaha Community Watch Group began in September 2015 after several people reported break-ins or that they were being harassed on the street, said Dom Acain, spokesman for the Kekaha Community Watch Group.
“People were getting tired of it,” he said.
There are 60 people in the watch group, which installed cameras, patrols the streets and checks out areas of interest posted on its Facebook page.
“We encourage people to report anything they see while they’re out,” Acain said. “Then we’ll check it out, run plates and send any information to KPD.”
The watch group also asks people to sit on their lanai at night to keep an eye on things.
“The night activity started going down, and we’ve seen an increase in people getting outside. They feel more comfortable going places,” Acain said.
Kilauea is battling drug-related crimes, but there is another problem, said Yoshi L’Hote, president of the Kilauea Neighborhood Association.
“Apathy is what plagues our community and allows drugs and crime to occur,” he said. “We, as a community, need to start caring about each other again, about aunty down the road, kupuna, and the neighbor’s kid. When we start thinking ‘It’s not my problem, I don’t care,’ we are allowing drugs and crime to flourish.”
Through a partnership with Citizens and Thieves, KNA is encouraging people to document crimes as they are taking place via a security camera, phone or email, L’Hote said.
“We are encouraging neighborhoods to elect neighborhood captains that can become points of contact and can communicate back to the website,” L’Hote said. “We can then effectively assist law enforcement with their job and make our neighborhoods safe again.”
Citizens Against Thieves, or CAT, targets robbers and focuses on catching the career criminal, said Bob Warren, founding member.
CAT began in 2012 on the North Shore, but has expanded to over 1,000 members, extending to the Eastside and South Shore.
“My whole hope is make it so tough that they (criminals) change their lifestyle or go away,” Warren said.
Since CAT started, crime on the North Shore has decreased by 40 percent, Warren said.
While the report is good news, Kollar said the Garden Isle can’t be complacent.
“We still have a major drug problem that needs to be addressed; we still have property crimes against local residents and visitors; and we still have a domestic violence problem that inflicts a lot of damage on the fabric of our families,” he said.
“Crime trends improve when we are smarter on crime. If we keep using information well and keep communicating well, we can create conditions where crime doesn’t thrive rather than being in a posture where we are just reacting anytime something bad happens.”
Perry said there have been successes in other areas, too.
“I believe that more progressive rehabilitation programs that help turn lives around have been very positive and effective, particularly programs that addresses drug addiction,” he said.