For 40 years, one group has aided police in catching criminals, and solving cold cases

From cold cases to high-profile crimes, an organization celebrates 40 years of helping HPD capture criminals

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Their name says it all: CrimeStoppers Honolulu has helped stop crime in the city for 40 years.

They were founded in February 1981 following a nationwide trend of CrimeStoppers organizations popping up in cities.

CrimeStoppers Honolulu is not directly a department of HPD, but they work hand in hand to collect valuable anonymous tips from the public.

Over the last four decades, those tips have led to the arrested of more than 3,000 criminals. Some were high-profile cases, like state hospital escapee Randall Saito.

Saito was acquitted by reason of insanity in a 1979 murder. Sentenced to treatment at the Windward Oahu facility, he simply walked out in 2017 and fled to California, triggering a nationwide manhunt.

Authorities picked him up days after he left the state. It was one of the more notable captures for current CrimeStoppers Coordinator Chris Kim, who has been at the helm of the program since 2017.

He says tipsters can rest assured their anonymity is of top priority.

“The way we’re set up is, we’re completely anonymous from the beginning all the way to the payout. The way everything is set up is done anonymously,” Kim said.

Earlier this month, Honolulu Mayor Blangiardi, HPD Chief Susan Ballard and former chief Lee Donohue recognized the program for their 40 year-legacy of helping crackdown on crime in the city.

“The volunteers, the essence of this and what it means for the community, in cooperation with the police department, what it’s done to mitigate crime, to recover monies, to stop drug usage — I mean the list goes on. It’s just a litany of good,” Mayor Rick Blangiardi said.

“If it wasn’t for the eyes and ears of the community out there letting us know what’s going on, it wouldn’t happen,” HPD Chief Ballard added.

CrimeStoppers is what it is today thanks to the dedicated volunteers, and past coordinators, like Kim Buffet-Feigenspan.

During her 12-years leading the program, one arrest stood out to her.

The murder of Edith Skinner was unsolved for years, until HPD got an anonymous tip through CrimeStoppers Honolulu.
The murder of Edith Skinner was unsolved for years, until HPD got an anonymous tip through CrimeStoppers Honolulu. (Source: HNN Archives)

Tips helped solve a cold case from 1989. It led to the arrest of Gerald Austin, who was found guilty of raping and murdering 81-year-old Edith Skinner in her Kalakaua Avenue apartment.

“It hit me in a way I knew our program worked,” Kim Buffet-Feigenspan, former CrimeStoppers Coordinator from 2005 to 2017, said.

“I really truly believe in the program,” she added. “More people, especially in Hawaii, they’re aware of it and I hope they use it to solve those crimes out there. It’s a small island. You can’t run.”

Anonymous tipsters are eligible for a cash reward, but Kim says most of the time, it’s not about the money.

“They want to do the right thing and they know that they need to say something. So a lot of times they tell us upfront like, ‘I don’t want the reward, but this is what I know,’” Kim said.

Over the last 40 years, technology and outreach has changed. People can now submit info on the P3 Tips app and get bulletins on social media. But the foundation of the program remains the same: Loyal volunteers listening to concerned citizens.

“Thank you. Thank you to the media, but also thank you so much to the community. Thank you to all of you who have helped us become who we are today,” Kim said.

Last year, the pandemic forced almost all of their elderly volunteers to take a break from logging tips. But Kim says because of the COVID vaccine, they’re slowly coming back to headquarters.

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