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Report: Major crime down in 2003!

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Report: Major crime down in 2003

Major crimes in Hawai'i dropped significantly in 2003 compared with a year earlier, including a 35-year low in homicides and a near double-digit drop in property crimes.

There also was promising news among juvenile arrests, which reached a sixth consecutive record low last year at 2,113 arrests. From 1975 to 1997, juvenile arrests ranged from 4,000 to 7,000.

The statistics were part of the annual Uniform Crime Report of index crimes released yesterday by the state attorney general. Index offenses include murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

"What's remarkable about (the decrease) is it's occurring in the midst of an ongoing crystal methamphetamine infestation," Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said.

The attorney general's report said the overall crime index decrease was attributable to a 12.5 percent reduction in property crimes on O'ahu. Carlisle credited the police department as well as the community with helping to lower those numbers.

"The community is more and more involved and aware of the dangers of crystal methamphetamine use and abuse," Carlisle said.

In 2003, there were 69,267 index crimes reported statewide, or 5,508 offenses per 100,000 residents. That represented an 8.9 percent decrease from 2002 and reversed three straight years of increases, according to the report.

Although violent crimes increased by 3.2 percent last year, the number of homicides, rapes and robberies decreased. Assaults increased statewide by 10.2 percent.

The number of reported property crimes dropped by 9.4 percent in 2003, with all categories showing decreases. Burglaries were down by 11.2 percent, while larceny/thefts dropped by 10.1 percent.

Over the past few years, Carlisle said there has also been a joint effort with state and federal agencies to battle crime, and he cited the Weed and Seed program and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative as examples.

He said he was pleased that 2003 ended a trend of rising crime rates since an all-time low in 1999, adding that more needs to be done to reduce the number of car thefts, which dropped in 2003 but was only slightly below 2002's record high.

Last year, there were 22 homicides in Hawai'i, a 17.5 percent drop from 2002 and the lowest since 1968, said Paul Perrone, chief of research and statistics with the attorney general's office. On a per-capita basis, the 22 murders would be the lowest since 1956, he said.

"It's hard to imagine that you'd have a lower murder rate in 2003 than you did roughly 50 years ago," Perrone said. "But time will tell if that's an anomaly or not."

Overall, he said, the 8.9 percent drop in index crimes was significant.

"Up or down, that's a pretty big number, and we needed to see the decrease," he said. "Crime had been going up fairly sharply for the last four years, so that's notable."

The number of crime index arrests also decreased by 9.6 percent in 2003, with adult arrests down 7.3 percent and juvenile arrests down 15.4 percent.

Perrone said juvenile arrests have been declining each year since 1998. From 1975 to 1997, the arrests ranged from 4,000 to 7,000 annually, he said.

"Last year, this was the only piece of good news. With everything else being up, this was the one thing that was still dramatically down," Perrone said.

"I'd give the credit to the kids themselves," he added. "Clearly youths in our state today are making much wiser life choices than they were 10, 20 or even 30 years ago."

Honolulu Police Deputy Chief Paul Putzulu said he also was pleased with the report and said preliminary figures show that crime so far this year is about 6 percent down from last year.

Putzulu agreed with Carlisle that a concerted effort of many agencies and community groups is helping to reduce crime. But he said the department is working to reduce further the number of crimes in each category, particularly in the rate of larceny/theft cases, where Hawai'i continues to lead the nation.

"Any crime is one too many," Putzulu said. "We're still working to reduce the number of property crimes that we have. We just have too many. Auto thefts are still very high, a little over 8,200 of those. We have just shy of 8,000 burglaries. All these numbers are too high, so we're going to focus on those."

Other highlights of the Uniform Crime Report are:

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