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Violent crimes hit new high

Violent crimes on the Big Island reached a record high in 2013.

That’s according to the report “Crime in Hawaii 2013: A Review of Uniform Crime Reports,” recently released by the state Attorney General’s Research and Statistics Branch. Those are the latest official crime stats available.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program tracks seven offenses: murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault (plus attempts at those crimes), which are violent crimes; and burglary, theft and auto theft, which are property crimes.

Of the 5,833 offenses reported on the Big Island that year, 5,286, or 90.6 percent, were property crimes. There were 547 violent crimes reported, accounting for 9.4 percent of reports.

According to the report, Hawaii County’s violent crime rate in 2013 reached its highest point on record since statewide data collection of crime statistics began in 1975. The violent crime rate, at 287 reports per 100,000 population, was slightly higher than the prior record of 286 in 2005 and well above the 227 reports per 100,000 population rate in 2012.

“That’s meaningful,” said Paul Perrone, the attorney general’s chief of research and statistics.

“It edged out the violent crime rate in 2005. It wasn’t like it blew it out of the water, but still it’s a record high.”

Perrone, who co-authored the report, cautioned it is strictly a statistical compilation and analysis.

“It doesn’t answer the $64,000 question, which is, ‘Why?’” he said.

Hawaii Police Department’s reported clearance rate for violent crimes, 59.8 percent, was the highest in at least a decade. According to the FBI, “clearance” means at least one person has been arrested, charged and turned over to the court for prosecution.

There is also “clearance by exceptional means” which means the law enforcement agency has identified the offender, gathered enough evidence to support an arrest and charge, but has encountered a circumstance outside the control of law enforcement that prohibits arrest, charge and prosecution.

One example would be a murder-suicide.

Assistant Police Chief Henry Tavares, who oversees the department’s East Hawaii operations, noted in a Tuesday email the rise in violent crime looks large between 2012 and 2013, “however, when compared to the five years preceding 2013, the statistics represent a small change.”

By far, most violent crime reports in 2013 were for aggravated assault, with 394, or 72 percent — a record eclipsing the previous high of 363 set in 2011.

Aggravated assault does not include misdemeanor assault, nor does it include all felony assaults. It does include all reports of first-degree assault. Second-degree assaults are included only if the assault was “accompanied by use of a weapon or means likely to produce death or great bodily harm.”

The rate of reported murders and attempted murders rose dramatically in 2013, with nine reported, a 78.4 percent increase over the five murders reported in 2012. Seven of the 2013 investigations have been cleared, a 77.8 percent clearance rate, according to the study.

The number of murders/attempted murders in 2013 ranks sixth overall since 1975. The record, 13, occurred three times, in 1980, 1987 and 1988. There were 11 reports in 1979.

Tavares acknowledged the “high” number of murder and attempted murder investigations in 2013.

“The statistics represent two officers being shot in January, two individuals killed at the same time in February, and an individual throwing a machete toward an officer in December,” he said.

There were 89 reports of robbery, which is theft by force, violence or threat, accounting for 16.3 percent of violent crime reports. That’s the second-highest yearly total, four fewer than the 93 recorded in 2005.

And there were 55 reports of forcible rape, accounting for 10.1 percent of violent crime reports. That’s far below 2004’s record of 86, but up from the 41 reported in 2012, the lowest total in more than two decades.

According to the report, the Big Island’s property crime rate decreased considerably between 2004-2013. The 2,771 property crimes per 100,000 population reported in 2013 represents a 25.7 percent drop from the 4,744 property crimes per 100,000 reported in 2005.

There were 3,727 reported thefts in 2013. That’s 38.3 percent less than the record number, 6,049 in 1980, and 8.3 percent less than the 4,068 reported in 2005, the largest number in the past decade.

Reports of burglaries and attempted burglaries, which are the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft, have also shown a downward trend in the past decade. There were 1,138 reports in 2013, slightly down from 1,184 the previous year and 38 percent down from the record of 1,837 in 2005.

Clearance of burglaries, at 10.2 percent, is about 3 percent below the national average. Tavares noted the rural nature and isolation of much of the Big Island, especially in the Puna district, make burglary prevention a challenge.

“Homes are spread out, separated by thick brush, with long driveways, often not visible from the roadway, creating an ideal condition for a criminal,” he said.

“Another challenge is identifying the owner of property after it is recovered. Most people do not mark their items, (such as) engraving, and do not keep records indicating serial numbers. Also, jewelry and hard-to-describe items are not photographed.”

Motor vehicle theft reports have also trended mostly downward in the past decade. The 421 logged in 2013 was down 5.8 percent from the 443 in 2012, and 44.5 percent down from the record 759 thefts reported in 2005.

Clearance rates for property crimes — which generally must include arrests and charges, not just property recovery — are far lower than for violent crimes, both locally and nationally.

Local clearance rates of 21.2 percent in 2013 are 2.5 percent higher than in 2004.

“Violent crimes are usually committed by an offender known to the victim,” Tavares explained. “Property crimes are usually committed by random individuals with an opportunity to commit a crime.

Property crimes also include credit cards being used on the mainland, or in foreign countries, with no trace of a suspect.”

Tavares said police depend on the community to be “the eyes and ears of the department.”

“A large part of our success … is based on the willingness of people getting involved in their community and partnering with us to make the Big Island a safe place to live,” he said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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