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Friday, March 24, 2000

Crime takes a
nose dive to a
near-record low

The state figures 'went from the
attic to the basement,' according to a
chief researcher with the
justice division

By Jaymes K. Song


Crime in Hawaii plummeted last year to a record low from its record high in 1995.

"People say, 'So what if we went from the attic to the ground floor.' But we actually went from the attic to the basement in three or four years," said Paul Perrone, chief researcher of the Crime Prevention and Justice Division for the state attorney general.

"While most of the nation decreased in the 1990s, Hawaii increased up to 1995 to an all-time high," he said yesterday. "Now, we're near or at record lows" since 1975 when crimes were first reported statewide.

From 1995 to 1999, violent crimes -- such as robberies, rapes, assaults and murders -- fell 14 percent. And property crimes -- such as vehicle thefts and home burglaries -- fell 35 percent.

Statewide crime overall also dropped about 10 percent for the year in 1999, compared to the previous year, Perrone said.

Oahu has reported large declines in crime, affecting overall statistics statewide.

"It has been a very significant decline over the last four years; the question is how much further can we sustain this," said city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle. "This is unprecedented."

Perrone said, "It has to bottom out sooner or later, but 1999 wasn't the year."

Carlisle said "there's no doubt police have done a tremendous job," and added that keeping career criminals and repeat offenders incarcerated contributed to the falling crime statistics.

"It's not just putting people in jail, it's putting the right people in jail," Carlisle said yesterday.

"If you take them out of the picture, you eliminate them from preying on the public."

One notable rise last year was the number of homicides. Oahu recorded 31 of its 36 homicides in the second half of the year, including the massacre at the Xerox Corp., where seven men were gunned down.

This compares to a total of 17 homicides for all of 1998, which was an all-time low for Oahu and considered an aberration.

Honolulu police had no comment yesterday about the attorney general's report, but previously had credited the dropping crime to community policing, prevention and new partnerships with federal, state and local law enforcement.

Perrone's comments about crime during 1999 followed yesterday's release by the state attorney general's office of the latest detailed report of crime for the first half of 1999.

Maui was the only county to report an increase in crime for the first six months of 1999, according to the report. Maui saw a 4 percent rise in violent crimes.

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