HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu police officials say the department will add more detectives and increase patrols islandwide amid a string of brazen purse snatchings and muggings that appear to target the most vulnerable population: The elderly.
HPD’s crime mapping tool shows 81 reported robberies in the last month.
At a community meeting Thursday in Hawaii Kai, Police Chief Susan Ballard said the crimes appear to be random ― scattered around the island and around the clock.
"They’re not concentrated in one particular area. It’s not any particular time. It’s really all over the charts,” Ballard said.
At the community meeting, residents begged elected officials, police and prosecutors to stop the violence.
“It’s not the law-abiding citizen who should be afraid. It should be these damn dirt bags who are putting fear into all of our lives,” said Jeffrey Pimentel, who attended the meeting. “Let’s take back our community.”
On the same day the event was held, police were called to investigate yet another violent purse snatching.
A 62-year-old woman was targeted at 5 a.m. as she was walking to work near the corner of Aala and North Kukui streets in Kalihi.
The attack left the woman in critical condition with a ruptured spleen.
“One thing these criminals do not understand is that they’re committing a very serious crime. A crime against a senior, a crime that can easily escalate into possibly a manslaughter charge,” said Deputy Prosecutor Scott Spallina, supervisor for the city’s Elder Abuse Justice Unit.
Saikit Denny Saingo, 17, is facing a manslaughter charge after he allegedly stole the purse of Dolores Corpus, 85, while she was walking with her husband in Kalihi this past summer.
Corpus fell, hit her head and died days later.
“These people who are committing these crimes are playing ‘Russian roulette’ and they’re gonna get caught,” Spallina said.
Authorities are urging the elderly to travel in groups, and they say women should keep purse straps wrapped across their bodies.
Ballard said they are adding more resources and detectives to find the robbers in numerous other unsolved cases.
“When we catch these guys, not if, but when we catch them, we will be pursuing federal charges against them if it is possible,” she said.
Honolulu police say they’re utilizing every tool at their disposal, but what they really need are more officers.
Right now, HPD is 250 officers short. Aand at the beginning of the year, there were 268 officers eligible for retirement.