HONOLULU (KHON) — CrimeStoppers Honolulu has helped capture over 3,000 fugitives since its inception in February, 1981, and it is all thanks to anonymous tipsters.
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The non-profit works closely with the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) to nab suspects wanted on outstanding warrants.
Volunteers man the phones. Sometimes the tips are bizarre but they prove to be worth it more often than not.
Honolulu police Sgt. Chris Kim, who became the coordinator of CrimeStoppers Honolulu in 2017, said “one case that stands out is the capture of Hawaii State Hospital escapee Randall Saito.”
Randall Saito spent decades in a psychiatric hospital for killing a woman. Saito escaped in 2017 and took a flight to Maui before flying to California.
“We put out the media release, and sent it to our counterparts in California,” he explained. “It was an officer who recognized Saito, which led to the apprehension.”
Tipsters also helped Honolulu Police nab a real estate scam artist in 2003.
“Ronald Ken Dufrene” took a page out of Steven King novels.
“One of my most fun ones was a fake rental guy that used aliases from Steven King books,” said retired Honolulu police Cpt. Letha Decaires, who was CrimeStoppers coordinator from 1996-2005.
Ronald Ken Dufrene was wanted on a $20,0000 court warrant in connection with a rental scam investigation involving a Hawaii Kai home.
“He was using different aliases. I broke out laughing when it dawned on me, that these were characters in the books,” Decaires said. “I call him our literary thief.”
Decaires said, HPD conducted a sting operation but getting Dufrene in handcuffs was not easy.
“We put a wire on one of our lieutenants and we were able to get the guy to confess. We had bait money, and we did the transfer. And then as soon as we move them out of the way, we went in to get him. But we ended up chasing him all over Hawaii Kai. The younger guys jumped the fence and he was eventually arrested,” she recalled.
CrimeStoppers Honolulu paid out more than $383,781 in cash rewards for tips that lead to arrest, but many never claimed the cash.
“You’d be surprised that about 30 to 40 percent of the people never claimed the rewards,” said retired Honolulu police Sgt. Kim Buffett, who was CrimeStoppers Coordinator from 2005-2017.
“They tipsters are anonymous, so we didn’t know who they are. We could never say thank you. But I’d like to say that now. Thank you to the people who did call in and make it wonderful that somebody helped a family and never picked up a reward,” said Buffett.
“See, people want to know what’s going on. They want to know what they can do. They want to know how to do it safely. And then they want to know the end of the story. And that’s what we gave them. We gave them the power to be able to share what they knew, do it safely and then be part of the solution,” said Decaires.
Anyone with information about criminal activity in Honolulu can call CrimeStoppers at 955-8300. The public may now send anonymous web tips to the CrimeStoppers website or via the P3 Tips app to be eligible for an award of up to $1,000.