Chief links with feds, puts more detectives and patrol on crime-wave crackdown

Always Investigating

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu police have called on federal resources to help crackdown on a recent spike in violent crime.

Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard told Always Investigating that the spate of violent armed car-jackings, purse snatchings, and other robberies appears to be random so far, but she’s putting more resources on the problem.

Always Investigating followed the numbers to show on paper what victims see on the streets — a crime wave, especially for violent robberies.

KHON2 revealed the crime spike data compiled from HPD’s own crime mapping after HPD had said it was too soon to say whether crime was on the rise. On Wednesday, Dec. 11, the chief answered our questions in the wake of our findings.

KHON2 asked Ballard: Do you think it’s the same culprits committing this, or is it random thieves getting more brazen?

“I think it’s just random and I think it’s a crime of opportunity,” Ballard said. “These folks, whoever they are, are just going around and if they see somebody that might be by themselves, an elderly person, someone who is vulnerable by themselves, they can take their purse or whatever. Then they make the attack, which is unfortunate.”

The FBI told KHON that they can intercede on things like gang and interstate crime networks or illegal gun trafficking. The chief told Always Investigating that she’s calling on federal help.

KHON asked the chief: “These violent components are shocking everybody. Is there any common thread among them, are they gang related or from out of state? Anything you can get the feds more involved in if there is a nexus? Or is it just local thieves and they’re becoming more brazen?”

Ballard replied: “Just to let you know we did meet with (U.S. Attorney) Kenji Price yesterday from the U.S. Attorney’s office, and obviously he’s offered us all the support we need. When we catch these guys — not if, but when we catch them — we will be pursuing federal charges against them if it is possible, if it fits the federal criteria.”

The president of SHOPO, the police union, told KHON that’s how they turned the tide on a similar crime spike a couple of decades ago.

“We had a series similar to this back in the late ‘90s where our tourists were being targeted for purse snatchings,” said SHOPO president Malcolm Lutu. “We were able to work together with Judge Alm who was the AUSA at the time and were able to investigate and serve search warrants on these individuals who were prosecuted federally.”

“If we have to go federal we are going to go federal, and that means long jail term for them especially if a weapon is involved.” Ballard said. “More guns are being used. Whether they’re real guns or airsoft guns we don’t know because unless we recover those guns then we don’t know for sure if it is or is not.”

Always Investigating asked the chief: “Can you please share with us more insights about how Honolulu police and detectives are going about investigating and cracking down on whatever it is that’s going on in our city?”

“For purse snatchings and robberies, we took a look at it, it’s scattered. They’re not concentrated in one particular area. It’s not a particular time. It’s really all over the charts,” Ballard said. “But what we have done is we’ve got teams out there and we’re looking at people that we know. We’re taking a look at every single open robbery case that we have that might fit the M.O. — how this all goes down. And then if they have warrants, then we’re looking for them for warrants. We’re trying to work the robbery cases even harder. We’re putting additional detectives on it to work the robbery cases. My understanding is we arrested one individual for one of the robbery cases recently this morning.”

KHON2 asked: “What about preventive measures and more patrols. Can you put those into numbers for us? What are you doing to prevent and scare them off in the first place?”

“Obviously our patrol is out there,” Ballard said. “We make sure to go to the bus stops. Our plain clothes folks are out there. I don’t have the numbers for you, but I can tell you the resources we have, we’re marshaling people we have to go out there and make sure this doesn’t continue happening.”

Police officers and the chief are calling on anyone with tips to come forward.

“I want the public to know that our officers are working diligently to catch these individuals who are responsible for these crimes. Sometimes law enforcement needs help from the public, from friends, and family of these individuals to come forward and say something,” Lutu said. “These suspect individuals talk to people and we need these people to call us. We need their families and friends to look and realize the seriousness of these crimes and call us.”

“If anybody has any information, please make sure that you call,” Ballard said. “If you know anybody who’s doing it, these are your kupuna that you’re hurting. Stop. Help us out.”

We’ll continue to follow up on quantifying the resources the chief has directed to tackle this crime wave, and we’ll keep an eye on crime statistics to see if it starts moving back down again for violent robberies.

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