Because bad news typically breaks on a Friday, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the state Attorney General’s office decided to release its 2015 Crime in Hawaii report on Friday, Dec. 2. First, the good news: “Hawaii’s total Index Crime rate in 2015 was 0.3% below the rate reported in 2014, and 24.7% below the rate reported a decade earlier (2006).”
Yay, right? Overall crime in the state dropped a tiny percentage from 2014 to 2015, but a whole lot over the last decade. That is good. Unfortunately, it’s an overall state trend–crime in individual counties (like good ol’ Maui County) doesn’t necessarily have to reflect it.
And it doesn’t, which brings us to the bad news in the 2015 report:
“The total Index Crime rate in Maui County increased 2.3% in 2015; the violent crime rate rose 7.6%, and the property crime rate edged up 1.8%,” states the report. “Maui County’s crime rates increased for six of the ten Index Crime offenses, with a notable increase of 86.4% for arson. Maui County reported the highest statewide rates for total, violent, and property Index Crimes, as well as rape, aggravated assault, and larceny-theft.”
Whoa, whoa! Total crime in Maui County is up, and violent crime is up way more than property crime? If you think that’s bad, just remember that these aren’t new trends around here. Here’s what the 2014 Crime in Hawaii report said about Maui County:
“The total Index Crime rate in Maui County increased 0.9% in 2014; the violent crime rate rose 11.3%, and the property crime rate edged up 0.1%,” stated the 2014 state crime report. “Maui County reported the highest statewide rates for total Index Crimes, total violent crime, total property crime, murder, rape per the revised definition, aggravated assault, larceny-theft, and arson.”
Maui Police Department crime states quietly released back in early August confirm these numbers. An MPD powerpoint presentation titled “Maui County Crime Overview” and dated Aug. 2, 2016 shows a steady increase in the county’s violent crime index from 2011 through 2015 (a PDF of this document is posted at the end of this story). More alarming, the MPD stats show a considerable jump in the numbers of aggravated assault and rape in Maui County. But at least as far as the figures on rape are concerned, much of that increase may be due to a change in the definition of “rape” mandated by the FBI in 2013 (neither Mary Greer-Prince, who compiled the Maui PD’s crime stats, nor the department’s public information officer responded to repeated requests for comment on these stats).
“In 2013, in addition to removing the word ‘forcible,’ the FBI also approved revisions to the UCR [Uniform Crime Reporting] Program’s definition of rape,” states the 2014 Crime in Hawaii report. “The revised definition of rape is the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim. This revised definition encompasses all genders as victims of rape and also includes the offenses of sodomy, and sexual assaults with an object, which were previously reported to the FBI only as arrests in the other sex offenses category. The old definition, which will be referred to as the legacy definition throughout this report, is defined as the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. The State of Hawaii commenced the collection of rape data per the revised definition on January 1, 2014.”
In any case, Maui County’s crime numbers clearly don’t mesh with state trends. While disturbing, even those stats pale before national crime numbers, according to University of Hawaii social sciences Professor Meda Chesney-Lind, who has been studying Hawaii crime for decades.
“Overall, crime in Hawaii is pretty much down,” Chesney-Lind told me a few weeks after the Maui PD crime stats came out. “But Maui has a lot of tourists on island at any given time. The most controversial report I ever did was on tourism and crime. Typically, we have a very low violent crime rate compared to national crime rates, and a very high property crime rate.”
Here’s the MPD’s “Maui County Crime Overview” powerpoint presentation: maui-county-crime-overview-2016