Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Runaway hearing
raises dilemma

By Craig Gima


Legislature '99 Honolulu police say making it a crime to help a runaway would help them locate and return teen-agers to their parents.

But the public defender says it could make criminals out of those who may be trying to help children escape abuse.

The different points of view came at what may be the only public hearing on the measure. It was inserted into another bill by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,000.

"Lots of times we'll run into a stone wall when we try to apprehend juveniles because there's no cooperation on the other end," said Capt. Bart Huber of the Juvenile Services Division.

Huber said making it a crime to help runaways could help police in cases where a young girl runs away to stay with an older boyfriend. He said parents may suspect the girl is staying with someone, but if the person hides the teen-ager there is little police can do.

"If there was a crime involved we can make another case and the person who is harboring a runaway could actually be prosecuted later," he said.

But public defender Richard Pollack said his office commonly represents teen-age girls who have run away from physical, sexual or psychological abuse.

"This is a situation where we believe not all problems can be cured by criminal laws. Indeed, criminal laws can sometimes make a situation worse," Pollack told the committee. "The law should not criminalize the conduct of a helpful relative or friend, thereby closing another door on the minor and making the situation worse."

But Huber said if a teen-ager is being abused, it should be reported to police who can investigate or turn the case over to Child Protective Services rather than having other parents or friends decide if a teen-ager is telling the truth about an abusive situation.

The runaway measure was inserted into a "video peeping tom" bill at the request of Sen. Brian Kanno (D, Ewa Beach), who said the idea for the measure came from talking to police during his work at the Boys & Girls Club of Ewa Beach.

The bill would make it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine to install cameras and observe and take pictures of people in bathrooms and other places where people expect privacy without the consent of the person being spied upon. It is now a misdemeanor offense.

Photographer Warren Kawamoto was sentenced March 18 to one year probation and a $3,000 fine for invasion of privacy -- a misdemeanor -- for videotaping roommates and employees using the toilet and shower in his Makiki house since 1991.

There have been two other similar cases recently, including one involving a Waikiki Baskins-Robbins manager.

The intent of the measure is supported by the public defender and prosecutors.

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