HPD's big push against game rooms has a target: Violent criminals
KALIHI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police are cracking down on violent criminals on Oahu — and using illegal game rooms to catch them.
In a sting operation this past weekend, approximately 20 game rooms were raided, and nearly 20 people were arrested on dozens of charges, sources said.
And two weeks ago, there was a massive bust of a game room off Keaaumoku Street.
Former federal special agent Tommy Aiu said he's been told the crackdown comes after a recent spike in violence relating to game rooms on Oahu.
"In the past several months there's been several armed robberies, there was a shooting last month, all related to criminal activity within and surrounding the game rooms," Aiu said.
Last month, police were called to a suspected game room in Mapunapuna after several shots were fired. And in May, three suspects posing as law enforcement officers invaded a home in Punchbowl, tying up and robbing several people inside. Sources say the robbery was game room-related.
Sources also say among those arrested in the Kalihi game room raids this past weekend was OCCC work furlough escapee Martin Williams. Williams was serving time for drug charges.
Sources say only three people were arrested on gambling charges.
"The primary focus is to make the community safer," Aiu said. "To bring this kind of activity under control. And if during the course of these sweeps they find violent offenders and they have warrants on them, they're gonna make the proper arrests and take them into custody making the area safer."
Defense attorney Bill Harrison represents two of those arrested in HPD's sting operation last weekend. He said neither of his clients belong in custody.
"One was basically just gambling and the other one was a store clerk," he said. "And the store that it was in had other items other than these machines. They were basically a regular mom-and-pop operation with these machines in the back."
Harrison said officers should be going after the owners instead.
"These kind of cases where people are on these game machines, to me, seem to be victim-less crimes and they shouldn't be going after these folks," he said.
The Honolulu Police Department and Honolulu Prosecutor's Office declined to comment on the raids.
Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.