Wednesday, January 27, 1999

Citizens fear
neighborhood crime

By Mary Adamski


Some residents take a dim view of Hawaii, saying they are afraid to walk in their neighborhoods at night and expect to become crime victims.

"It clearly demonstrates that a large proportion of crime goes unreported -- there are a lot more victims out there than are reported," said Paul Perrone, chief of research in the state attorney general's office.

There was an improvement in the attorney general's annual crime victimization survey released yesterday. Forty-eight percent of the participants said they were victims in 1997, but that was down from nearly 55 percent in 1996. Some 52 percent felt crime is a "very serious" problem in Hawaii, compared to 63 percent the previous year.

It was the first decline in those categories since the survey was begun in 1993. Mirroring the survey, a 1997 crime statistics report showed a 9 percent drop from the previous year.

The survey was sent last spring to 1,465 randomly selected state residents, 879 of whom returned the eight-page questionnaire.

Oahu residents reported the highest crime victimization rate, 51 percent, followed by 48 percent of Hawaii County residents, 41 percent from Maui County and 29 percent from Kauai county.

But fewer than half of those who were victims said they had reported the crimes to police, according to "Crime and Justice in Hawaii: 1998 Hawaii Household Survey Report."

For many, there is a perceived threat, reflected by 77 percent of the participants who said they expect to be victims within the next year, with 39 percent expecting it to be violent crime.

There were 41 percent who said they were afraid to walk alone at night near their homes, and fear of crime prevented 61 percent from doing things they would like to do.

The statistics have to be taken in perspective, Perrone said.

"Clearly there is the tendency of victims and those particularly concerned, angry or fearful to participate at a disproportionate rate. Nonvictims may look at the questions and say, 'This doesn't apply to me' and throw it away.'

"However, to get a 60 percent response on an eight-page survey is terrific," Perrone said, and the number of people sampled last year was larger than previously sought.

The other factor that may skew figures is that respondents may include crimes from the past into their answer about being a victim in the past year. Perrone said that in a previous sampling it was determined that such "telescoping" added 10 percent.

Perrone said another thing the survey demonstrates is "The fear of crime is fairly disproportionate to the level of threat."

It was the fourth year in a row there was a hike in the number of people -- 62 percent -- who think the police are doing a good job.

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