Hawaii crime rate
fell in 2003

A decrease in property crimes is
credited for an 8.9 percent drop,
the first in three years

Hawaii's overall crime rate fell 8.9 percent last year, reversing a three-year trend and highlighted by the lowest number of murders in 35 years, a state report shows.

The drop in overall crime from a year earlier compared with a 12 percent increase in 2002 from the previous year, according to the Department of the Attorney General's annual Uniform Crime Report, released yesterday.

"It's very encouraging to see that trend reverse with the current data," said Paul Perrone, chief of research and statistics at the attorney general's office. He noted that the crime rate had been rising since Hawaii's record low rate in 1999.

There were 22 murders in 2003, the lowest number of murders and the lowest per capita murder rate since the state started keeping records in 1975. An analysis of data from county police departments for the years preceding statewide uniform crime reporting, back to 1943, found that the 2003 tally was Hawaii's lowest since 1968 and the smallest per capita murder rate since 1956, three years before statehood.

"We don't have much of a problem here," said Deputy Police Chief Paul Putzulu, of the Honolulu Police Department.


Still, violent crime in 2003 was up 3.2 percent from 2002, led by a 10 percent increase in assaults. The other categories of the violent crime index -- murder, rape and robbery -- were all down.

The biggest factor in the 2003 drop in overall crime was a 9.4 percent decrease in property crimes, which include burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft.

The report showed Honolulu's overall crime rate dropped 12 percent last year from 2002, mostly due to a 12.5 percent decrease in property crime.

"We're really happy and pleased with that," said Putzulu.

He attributed the decrease in property crime to several factors, including daily police enforcement, neighborhood security watches and an 18-month program by HPD and the prosecutor's office that takes swift action against active criminals.

Though Honolulu's motor vehicle theft rate fell 3.8 percent, police still consider it to be high.

Putzulu said police have developed another program with the prosecutor's office targeting auto theft in the Pearl City district -- from Aiea to Kunia Road in Waipahu -- which has the highest number of auto thefts, he said.

"We've charged more people under this program than we would normally charge for auto theft under the normal charging criteria," said Putzulu. He noted that they recently received approval to extend the program in the district for another year.

The state's rape and robbery rates dropped 2.3 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively, in 2003.

Crime arrests for juveniles continued to be low for the sixth year in a row, with 2,113 arrests reported statewide.

"It has been sustainable for six years," said Perrone. "A lot of hard work has been done working with our youth population since the late 1980s. Ultimately, you have to give credit to the kids themselves for making good life choices."

On the neighbor islands, the violent crime rate increased 32.1 percent in Hawaii County, 18.1 percent in Maui County and 4 percent in Kauai. Hawaii and Maui counties experienced a slight increase in property crime, while Kauai County experienced a decrease of 1.4 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

2003 Uniform Crime Report


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