Honolulu’s new city prosecutor stops massage parlor, prostitution raids

Published: May. 28, 2021 at 4:29 PM HST|Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 9:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Prostitution raids have stopped in Honolulu since new city Prosecutor Steve Alm took over this year.

In a statement, he said the raids didn’t “meaningfully address the root cause of the problem: Human trafficking” and so plans to re-focus his efforts.

Between 2018 and 2020, there were dozens of raids of massage parlors and spas.

Among the crimes people were arrested for: Prostitution, promoting prostitution and operating an illegal business. Last year, during the pandemic, the city Prosecutor’s Office added emergency order violations to the list.

Many of the busts were at Century Center.

“It’s one of Oahu’s biggest brothels and I understand the frustration of the residents in those kinds of buildings where, you know, in the middle of the night people are standing around in their hallway,” said Meda Chesney-Lind, a University of Hawaii professor of Women’s Studies.

Chesney-Lind’s husband used to have an office in Century Center.

“I’ve heard the complaints,” she said.

While the law enforcement action would shut down the operations for awhile, Chesney-Lind said the illegal activity always returned.

When Alm took over as Honolulu’s prosecuting attorney in January, the enforcement policy changed.

In a statement to Hawaii News Now, Alm said the prior administration’s actions were “resource-intensive and have generally resulted only in misdemeanor arrests for prostitution.”

Alm said his office is redirecting resources and working with the state Attorney General’s office and Homeland Security Investigations, among others, to focus more efforts and training on identifying trafficking.

Chesney-Lind agreed that shifting the focus could have a bigger impact, even though it will mean neighbors need to be patient.

“Many of the women who get into this occupation are simply trying to come to the United States and this is a way to do that. They’re doing it illegally so that’s a problem,” she said.

Chesney-Lind also wants to see more resources become available for the women trying to escape the business.

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