Transparency at HPD questioned after rising violent crime stats kept out of Waikiki safety summit talk

In August, a gun scare in Waikiki sent beachgoers in a panic as an erratic suspect threatened officers.
Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 4:41 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2022 at 8:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In August, a gun scare in Waikiki sent beachgoers in a panic as an erratic suspect threatened officers. There was a similar scene in March when police took down a man threatening bystanders with a knife.

Residents say crimes like these involving violent offenders are happening far too often.

“We’re swarming with these chronic troublemakers,” said resident John Deutzman. “It’s so many of them that you can’t walk down the street without running into one of them.”

But if you attended the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association’s Waikiki Safety Summit last week you might have left with an entirely different impression of crime in the state’s no. 1 tourist destination.

Honolulu police presented a slideshow showing that burglaries, car break-ins, catalytic converter thefts, robberies and assault are all down in Waikiki compared to last year.

According to the data HPD shared, theft was the only crime that had risen.

It’s a story that made headlines in the paper.

But after a closer look at HPD’s PowerPoint, Hawaii News Now noticed data for many violent crimes was missing. Offenses like murder, felony assault, felony sex assault and weapons violations ― all of which are up in Waikiki.

In fact, HNN obtained an internal memo from HPD’s Crime Analysis Unit comparing this year’s statistics to last year.

It shows from Jan. 1, 2022 through Nov. 11, the number of felony assaults in Waikiki increased 42% compared to the same time last year ― jumping from 78 to 111.

Assaults in Waikiki are up compared to the same period last year.
Assaults in Waikiki are up compared to the same period last year.(Hawaii News Now)
Crime in Waikiki is on the rise.
Crime in Waikiki is on the rise.(Hawaii News Now)

Data also shows a spike in felony sex assaults in the tourist district. They’re up 43%, from 56 to 80.

Weapons violations, meanwhile, increased 12% year over year (from 33 to 37).

There were also two murders in Waikiki so far this year, compared to one over the same period last year.

“Violent crime is definitely on the rise,” said John McCarthy, a retired HPD deputy chief. “There seems to be a big lack of transparency when it comes to this kind of stuff.”

McCarthy said the department should have provided the public with all of its crime statistics and adds when you pick and choose it can give the impression the agency is hiding something.

“It reminds me of, you know, the cover up is worse than the crime,” he said. “Release the statistics. It is what it is.

“The public should be informed so they can take precautions. They can live a better life.”

Hawaii News Now asked HPD why its presentation didn’t include data on violent crimes that are on the rise. Officials defended the portrayal and said the PowerPoint was designed to address the biggest concerns in the community.

A spokesperson said in a statement:

“The presentation was made by patrol and focused on the concerns that the Waikiki community most frequently asks about, including crime, special events management, and quality of life issues. The crime portion of the presentation included the stats as well as the district’s ongoing efforts to address chronic criminal and nuisance complaints, such as drugs, thefts, break-ins and other street crimes. We will consider including additional categories in the future.”