Recent high-profile crimes in Waikiki spur summit on visitor safety

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - White sand, turquoise water, picturesque views.

Hawaii can seem like a dream for the eight million visitors who travel to the islands each year.

That is, until that once-in-a-lifetime vacation is ruined by crime.

Gizelle D'Souza knows that all too well.

Last April, she and her husband were at Kailua Beach Park when she was robbed and assaulted by an escaped inmate.

"He didn't say a word to me," the visitor from Australia said. "Just took two steps forward and punched me and punched me and punched me and took my bag."

Added her husband, Chris: "Her face ... it was completely bashed up. Scary sight."

Recent crimes in Waikiki against tourists and members of the military spurred police, military officials and representatives from the tourism industry to gather Tuesday in Waikiki for the first summit on visitor public safety conference in 20 years.

While violence against tourists is unusual, property crimes are not.

"It's because it's a crime of opportunity. Leaving bags in the car. Leaving purses on the beach or unattended," said Police Chief Susan Ballard.

Police added that alcohol can contribute to people letting their guard down.

Jessica Lani Rich, of the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, said the agency helped 1,640 victims of crime last year alone.

Now the group is providing hotels with fliers so that tourists are aware of potential dangers.

"When crime happens against our visitors they're not just taking away their purse or their wallet. What they're taking away is their dream vacation," she said.

She added, "The majority of our visitors take everything to the beach. One of the most important things we want visitors to know is use the hotel safe."

To combat crime in areas like Waikiki and Chinatown, HPD says it has increased police presence with officers on foot patrols.

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