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Reported crimes in 2019 at 44-year low

Violent crimes ticked up from 2018 while property crimes fell

WAILUKU — After Maui County recorded a record-low crime rate in 2018, crime reported in the county declined again last year to its lowest level in more than 40 years, according to a state report.

The “Crime in Maui County, 2019” report, prepared in May by the state Department of the Attorney General, said the 5,433 crimes reported in 2019 represented a 1.6 percent decrease from 5,519 the previous year.

“It is kudos to our officers,” Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said at a Maui County Police Commission meeting held by videoconference Wednesday. “It means that we have addressed a lot of the issues that the community has.”

He said the 2019 crime rate was the lowest since the state began participating in the Uniform Crime Reporting Program in 1975.

The rates for property crimes and burglary also were the lowest levels on record since the statewide data collection began, according to the report.

The program collects information on crimes reported by law enforcement agencies regarding the violent crimes of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, as well as property crimes of burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

In 2019, violent crimes increased from 435 in 2018 to 449 last year, while property crimes decreased from 5,519 in 2018 to 5,433 last year.

From 2018 to last year, there were decreases of 80 percent in murder from five to one; 3.5 percent in rape from 114 to 110; 23.2 percent in burglary from 751 to 577 and 4.6 percent in motor vehicle theft from 693 to 661. During the same period, increases were reported of 26.4 percent in robbery from 53 to 67, 3 percent in aggravated assault from 263 to 271, 2.9 percent in larceny-theft from 3,640 to 3,746 and 4.9 percent in arson from 122 to 128.

There was one report of human trafficking — commercial sex acts in 2019, compared with none in 2018.

The report noted that during the past 10 years, the population of Maui County increased by 8.5 percent while total crimes decreased by 17.2 percent. Over the same period, violent crimes increased by 52.2 percent and property crimes decreased by 20.5 percent.

In both 2018 and 2019, the decline was driven by record-low property crimes, Faaumu said.

He said Friday that one reason behind the decrease in crime is a decentralizing of control in the department by giving commanders of police districts and divisions more autonomy to make decisions.

As a result, he said officers have focused on crime hot spots, such as a drug house in a neighborhood or a rash of property crimes in an area. In some cases, instead of handing off investigations to specialized units, patrol officers are doing more work to investigate reported crimes, Faaumu said.

“We’re willing to pay the overtime if the officers are willing,” he said.

With the implementation of a rotation policy setting limits on how long an officer can remain in some positions, officers have been transferred from specialized units to new assignments where they are using their experience to help younger officers do more thorough investigations, Faaumu said.

“Some patrol officers are writing up search warrants for houses, supervised by former detectives and vice officers,” he said. “They basically guide these young officers to continue the investigation.”

Compared to the days when he was a detective and would sit in the bushes for hours and days to stake out crime spots, Faaumu said officers are using technology and social media to solve some crimes.

Commanders use monthly crime reports generated for each district to look for patterns and problems, Faaumu said.

He said police are seeing that after arresting one offender responsible for numerous property crimes, there’s a dry spell before another offender steps in to commit offenses.

According to the report, the value of property stolen in 2019 was $12.9 million with $4.5 million recovered for a rate of 35.1 percent. The value of property destroyed by arson last year was $777,120 in 128 offenses.

The clearance rate (percentage of crimes that were solved) for crimes of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson was 14.2 percent last year, about the same as the 14.1 percent in 2018.

The report notes that “it is widely understood that offenses known to police are an underrepresentation of the total number of crimes committed, and that a truly reliable measure of unreported crimes is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain.”

“However, the use of reported offenses as official statistics can be verified and compared over time and between jurisdictions,” according to the report.

Faaumu said a report was prepared only for Maui County because statistics from other counties weren’t available.

He said he was hopeful that the crime rate would continue to decline this year.

He noted that traffic deaths have decreased from 12 at this time last year to six so far this year.

The COVID-19 crisis may also play a part in crime reduction this year, Faaumu said.

“People are home, they’re not out and about allowing others to take advantage of them being away from home,” he said.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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