Gun crimes are on the rise on Oahu ― and the trend could be linked to drugs
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - If it seems like there’s been an increase in gun violence on Oahu, it’s because there has been.
A Hawaii criminologist says there’s been a shift and she believes it’s likely tied to Hawaii’s drug crisis.
HPD data shows that since 2015 the number of homicides on Oahu hasn’t changed too much. But the percentage of cases involving firearms has been on the rise since 2017.
When it comes to aggravated assaults, just over 100 involved guns in 2015 ― or about 9% of all aggravated assault cases.
That number has steadily ticked up each year, topping out at 17% in 2020.
HPD data shows robberies involving firearms have remained steady since 2015, with guns being reported in about 16 percent of cases.
“We’ve had drug problems for many decades but increasingly, I’m afraid, like the mainland drug crimes and gun crimes begin to pull together,” said UH criminologist Meda Chesney-Lind.
Chesney-Lind has studied crime in Hawaii since the 1980s and says over the past few years there’s been an alarming trend: Many criminals have gone from arming themselves with bats and knives to guns.
“It’s very dangerous to police when you are dealing with individuals who have weapons or even fake weapons,” she said. “A police officer can’t tell from a distance whether it’s a fake gun or a real gun.”
While Hawaii continues to have one of the lowest gun death rates in the country, Chesney-Lind believes Hawaii leaders need to act now before problems get worse.
“The pressure’s been on to not necessarily arrest all the time,” she said. “I think we may have to reevaluate that based on what’s currently occurring.”
She added more social programs also need to be implemented.
“To figure out what’s going on in the lives of these young people. And what we can do to pull them away from the groups that get them involved in violent crime and drug sales,” she said.
Chesney-Lind is also pushing for the University of Hawaii to establish a criminal justice program so that law enforcement could have an opportunity to get more training.
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