Honolulu police troubled by big spike in crimes involving firearms

Updated: Nov. 27, 2019 at 5:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a rash of violent robberies in recent weeks from Salt Lake to Hawaii Kai, Honolulu’s police chief is trying to reassure the public.

There hasn't been a major increase in crime overall, according the department.

Authorities, however, are worried about a growing number of cases involving guns.

Based on statistics going back to 2017, there has been about a 20% increase in the number of crimes involving firearms, according to Honolulu Police Department officials.

[Read more: Another violent purse snatching in Waikiki prompts call for greater police presence]

[Read more: Suspects sought in string of weekend armed robberies across Oahu]

Police are making changes, including boosting the visibility of officers out on patrol.

“We’re also shifting resources, as we do in any time we have any type of crime that we need to address,” Police Chief Susan Ballard said. “We bring in our plainclothes units, bike units. We switch hours. We concentrate them in different areas."

Since officers aren't usually able to recover the firearms used in crimes, they're not entirely sure about the extent of the problem.

“Our suspicion is a lot of these firearms are not actual firearms," but fake guns, said police Maj. Walter Ozeki, of the Criminal Investigation Division. “We still treat these cases like they’re actual firearms, and in terms of the criminal penalties, it’s the same.”

Ballard met with Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Tuesday to go over the department's budget request for the upcoming fiscal year. HPD is asking for an additional $8 million.

There are roughly 250 vacancies throughout the department. Ballard hopes to have those filled within the next two years, and then focus on creating new positions for detectives and patrol officers.

“We’re asking to add foot positions to our budget for Waikiki, Chinatown, Kailua area," Ballard said. “We’re asking for increased staffing for the Kapolei, urban Honolulu area because of the increase in population.”

Caldwell said they are working to identify priorities and figure out the source of the additional funding.

“We’re committed to find them the money and give them more positions. Now do we get the full $8 million? That answer I can’t give you yet because from where do we find the money?” said Caldwell.

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