Isle gamblingHonolulu police say they have seen an increase in illegal gambling and related violent crimes over the last two years.
Lucrative back-room games are
bringing more arrests -- and
violence between rival operations
By Rod Antone
Police arrested 217 people for gambling offenses in 2001, an 81 percent increase over the 120 people arrested in 2000. And while numbers for 2002 are not yet available, police said they are on pace to surpass last year's total.
"At the pace we're going so far, yeah, definitely," said HPD's Narcotics/Vice Maj. Darryl Perry. "What seems to be happening is that there's more gambling going on all over town, and so we're getting more tips from people.
"These people are pretty mobile, they go from one area to another. ... We're having to chase these guys all over the place."
Besides the increase in gambling, police are also seeing an increase in robberies and assaults that take place at gambling houses, in some cases by rival gambling operations.
Police are investigating an apparent gambling-related beating of a man earlier this month that left him with a broken neck and broken bones in his leg, arm and hand.
Homicide Lt. Bill Kato confirmed that "an attempted-murder case was made, and our career criminal unit is looking at it."
Kato added, however, that the victim is "refusing to cooperate with investigators."
Speaking about gambling-related violence in general, Kato said, "We've been seeing a pattern of beatings and robberies, and over the last year there's been quite a few ... but we don't know exactly how many cases are out there because a lot of this stuff goes unreported."
The latest police gambling raid took place Wednesday night at 1020 Keeaumoku St.
Perry said the raid resulted in four arrests and the seizure of more than $6,000, along with various gambling paraphernalia.
"Chips, dice, cards, security cameras, security monitors," said Perry. "Being in some of these places is just like being in (Las) Vegas.
"The challenge that we face with gambling operations is that they're usually well monitored. It takes weeks for an undercover officer to infiltrate the operation and gather enough evidence to obtain a search warrant. Last year, we executed 34 search warrants. That's almost three a month."
Narcotics/Vice detectives also seized an estimated $253,000 in cash and gambling equipment last year. Perry said most of the gambling houses that are under investigation are in the downtown area and along Keeaumoku Street. Other locations being looked at include Kalihi, Waipahu and Pearl City.
As far as violent gambling-related crimes go, police said, there were 10 robberies last month alone in addition to what Kato describes as a "rash of beatings."
"I think it's getting more violent," said Kato. "It's either getting more violent and we're getting more cases, or there's just more people reporting these sorts of cases."
Perry added, "There's probably a lot of intimidation and strong-arming going on -- some of it extortion in exchange for protection."
Neither Perry nor Kato could explain why Oahu's illegal gambling operations have become more active.
But Perry noted, "It's very profitable."
Most of the tips about gambling activities come from anonymous sources to the Narcotics/Vice Division. Anonymous messages may be left by calling 529-3101. A suspicious-activity report form can be filled out online at HPD's Web site by going to www.honolulupd.org/nv/nvform.htm.
Neither format attempts to identify the informer, and all calls are kept confidential by investigators, according to Perry.
"If it gets reported to us, we'll take action," he said.
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