Tuesday, July 23, 1996

Increased crime rates
demand state response

HAWAII'S crime rates are rising to disturbing levels, creating concerns not only about public safety but also about its potential effect on tourism. In a single year, the state's overall crime rate soared 7 percent. It went from 17th highest in the nation to fourth highest in 1995.

Property crimes are at their worst level since 1980. Robberies and auto thefts rose by 30 percent, while burglary and larceny increased at lesser rates. While reports of rapes declined, violent crime generally rose by 12.7 percent. Murders increased from 50 in 1994 to 56 in 1995.

However, violent crime rates in Hawaii are still lower than the national average. The main reason for Hawaii's poor ranking is the number of property crimes, which may be related to the state's flat economy in recent years.

Hawaii's crime rate may be slightly skewed because it fails to take into account the 160,000 tourists present here on a given day; counting them in the population would significantly lower the rate of crimes per capita. Tom Green, research chief for the state attorney general's office, notes that visitors are relatively easy targets for thieves. The implication is that the crime rate among tourists is much higher than among the general population. That is of no comfort for a state that relies on a strong tourist industry as the base of its economy.

Police Chief Michael Nakamura attributes the rise in crime to the shortage of prison space, which he says creates a belief among criminals that they will go unpunished even if caught. Green is right in saying that building more prisons is not the only answer - education and drug prevention are also important weapons in the war against crime - but he agrees that the shortage of prison space is a contributing factor.

Governor Cayetano has refused to build more prisons. With the economy improving and the budget crisis ended, the governor should reconsider. The alarming increase in crime requires more of a response than to maintain that the state can't afford to build more prisons or fund alternative sentencing programs.

Waikiki Natatorium

A strong case for proceeding with the plans to restore the pool at the Waikiki Natatorium was made in the Star-Bulletin last Saturday. Written by Nancy Bannick and Patricia Vigueras-Doo, the article noted that the plans and specifications for restoring the pool, bleachers and facade have been approved by the state and are ready for bid. However, the state doesn't have money to pay the estimated $11.5 million cost. The Friends of the Natatorium plans to raise the funds, oversee construction and operate the facility.

After so many years of effort by the Friends, it is late in the game for another organization to propose an alternative plan such as a volleyball court. Restoration should proceed as soon as possible.

Marcos treasure

IF the claimants who won a staggering $22 billion judgment against the estate of former President Ferdinand Marcos in Circuit Court here succeed in collecting any of that money, it could come at the expense of some 10,000 victims of human rights abuses of the Marcos regime. That's because the victims were previously awarded nearly $2 billion from the Marcoses in a federal court trial here. This claim could conflict with their efforts to collect their award.

An award of $22 billion for the theft of a treasure that may not have existed is hard to take seriously. But the victims of the very real abuses of the Marcos regime who are hoping for compensation aren't laughing.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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