Federal authorities, HPD combine efforts to target game rooms amid spike in crime

Federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations and Honolulu police are stepping up efforts to shut down game rooms.
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 5:53 PM HST|Updated: May. 24, 2022 at 6:03 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations and Honolulu police are stepping up efforts to shut down game rooms. The effort comes as violence surrounding the illegal businesses is increasing.

In the past two months there have been two murders linked to game rooms. Other shootings and robberies have also been linked to gambling halls. That’s despite more frequent raids by Honolulu police.

“It is really frustrating for the police department,” said Capt. Paul Okamoto, of HPD’s Narcotics/Vice Division.

Game room workers often get probation and the operations are back open within days.

HSI Special Agent in Charge John Tobon said his agency is working with HPD to try and find federal charges.

“Prosecutions of federal, money laundering statutes and really federal violations of law which carry heavy penalties,” Tobon said.

State lawmakers recently passed a bill that would increase some game room-related charges from misdemeanors to felonies. That bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Tobon said federal seizure laws could also be applied.

And city Prosecutor Steve Alm said he wants to take advantage of a nuisance abatement law that could result in a building owner losing access for up to a year.

“This is where a lot bad criminal business is negotiated, where guns and drugs are bought and sold,” Tobon said.

It will take the combination of agencies working together to make a dent in the problem which spans generations in Hawaii but recently has become more of a hot spot for violent crime.

“It’s not just gambling that’s occurring here, we’ve seen some narcotics trafficking, human trafficking coming out of these places,” Okamoto said. “We can take an all-inclusive approach in enforcement to try and attack this problem.”

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.