Property crimes drop
12% on Oahu
Major crimes declined about
11 percent but violent crimes
rose, an FBI report says
Oahu saw a 12 percent decrease in property crime -- the first drop since 1999 -- but violent crimes rose slightly last year, according to a preliminary FBI statistics released yesterday.
Major crimes overall decreased by about 11 percent on Oahu last year from the year before, to 50,912 offenses in 2003 from 57,271 in 2002. Violent crimes increased by 0.2 percent and include a 10 percent increase in assaults, a 13 percent decrease in rape and a 17 percent drop in murders.
The federal statistics for 2003 show an 11 percent drop in burglaries, a 14 percent drop in larceny/thefts and a 3 percent decrease in auto thefts.
While Honolulu police are pleased with the numbers overall, they would like to see more of a drop in auto thefts, which skyrocketed 52 percent in 2002 from the year earlier.
"We've tried to target the most active suspects in each district and focus on them ... but it's always hard keeping people who are arrested on property crimes in jail," said Deputy Chief Paul Putzulu. "We have an overcrowded prison system, and it's generally for people who commit more violent crimes."
Putzulu said as far as the decreases overall, he credits a number of changes, including filling more police vacancies last year, increasing the number of community patrols and neighborhood watches, and going after the most active criminals in each area.
He also credits a pilot program in the Pearl City/Salt Lake/Waipahu (District 3) area that targets those arrested while driving stolen vehicles by charging them with auto theft.
"Typically, you needed more evidence in order to establish auto theft," Putzulu said. "But because D-3 always had the highest numbers we decided to see if we could change that and get people charged.
"Otherwise, if you don't charge them, you have to release them pending an investigation ... and that's very frustrating for everyone from the victims to police to members of the community because they're back on the streets and people are like, 'How'd this person get out?'"
Nationwide last year, there was an overall 3.2 percent decrease in violent crimes, with almost no change -- an 0.1 percent decrease -- in property crime. Arson, which is measured separately, dropped 6.9 percent in 2002. On Oahu, arson dropped 9 percent.
According to the FBI report, violent crimes have been dropping steadily over the last five years, particularly in the nation's largest cities. The report showed a 6.5 percent decrease from 2002 to 2003 in these crimes in cities with more than 1 million inhabitants.
Decreases were reported in all regions, with the Midwest showing the steepest drop at 7 percent. The decreases were 3.2 percent for the Northwest, 2.7 percent for the South and 1.2 percent for the West.
The FBI ranked Hawaii in having the third-highest property crime rate in the nation in 2002, dropping from the second highest in the nation in 2001. FBI reports also stated that Hawaii led the nation in larceny-theft cases from 2000 to 2002.
The new rankings for 2003 will not be available until the full FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program's final report is released in the fall. The numbers are complied from 11,921 law enforcement agencies around the country that take part in the program.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.