HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - From 2018 to last year, Oahu saw a staggering 45% increase in the use of guns in robberies, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard told the City Council on Thursday.
The statistic was one of many that Ballard discussed at the council committee meeting, during which she addressed the recent spike in violent crime ― and what HPD is doing to address it.
Ballard told City Council members that the police department has started specifically tracking crimes against senior citizens, recently being targeted in robberies.
That includes a rise in purse snatchings, which have targeted many older victims. One of those crimes resulted in the death of a Kalihi Valley woman last July.
“Unfortunately in 2020, just in January ... we saw in a rise in the purse snatching," Ballard told the city council’s Public Safety Committee.
Ballard offered several plans and ideas, including taking away a mode of transportation used by many purse snatchers.
“A lot of the modes of transportation now is bicycles, because it’s easy to get around, easy to go through tight places,” she said. “So we’re going to start doing stepped-up enforcement for bicycles,” including seizing and impounding bicycles that aren’t registered.
Other agencies told the committee that it’s not just an HPD problem ― that violent crime is affecting first responders, including city paramedics.
“Just in the last two weeks, we’ve had four of our paramedics attacked,” said Jim Howe, director of the city’s Emergency Medical Services.
“The impact of that is when they’re attacked, those ambulances go out of service.”
Ballard said there was also a spike in the use of weapons, including many that were stolen, unregistered ― or even fake replica guns.
While there are a lot of statistics and information, Ballard said HPD doesn’t have the resources to analyze them all.
“One of the things that I really want to see is a crime analyst, a real crime analyst," Ballard said.
“Not just someone who’s just looking at the numbers, but someone who can see the numbers, put them together and come up with trends and patterns."
Ballard also is having offers keep the blue lights on their vehicles to help deter crime.
She’s also adjusting schedules, taking some patrol officers from the midnight or overnight shift and moving them to the “third watch” shift, which starts in the late afternoon and runs through the evening.
The chief also said there’s been an increase in the number of qualified recruits joining the force in the last year. That means that they are now gaining officers, which could help make up the difference in patrol numbers soon.