I was born and raised on the Big Island and it has always been pretty safe to live here, or so I thought. In the late 90’s I left and moved to upstate NY and back then, Kona was still laid-back and pretty quiet. Upstate NY was too. I was gone for 11 years when I came back to Kona in 2010, it had changed.The population had expanded and so had businesses. There were a lot more stores and a lot of other commercial enterprises. That is pretty typical with a population increase. What I hadn’t considered was the crime rate.
Maybe I just never noticed when I was younger, but it seems the crime rate has increased a great deal since then. Another thing that has gone up a lot is the Missing Persons rate. The factor that both of these have in common seem to be the solve ratio: a lot of the missing persons cases aren’t being solved, and the various crimes being committed don’t always seem to be getting taken care of either for whatever reason. At least that has been what I understand from what I’ve read in the newspaper. There’s a shortage of police officers, I hear. There is a need for another station in South Kona. A year ago there was an article in West Hawaii today about how the police officers’ role was no longer proactive but they are there to deal with the after-math only.
It appears sex crimes have gone up as well. I looked up the registered sex offenders within a 3 mile radius of where I live, and 28 (!) men came up, one whom I used to work with back in the 90’s. I had my own personal reasons for doing so, but this did not give me any sort of peace of mind. When you look these men up, you can view what their sentencing was, whether they did jail time, probation, if they pled guilty, no contest, etc. Most of these guys plea-bargained with the DA in order to get a lesser sentence or only probation. Is this the sort of message Hawaii is sending to possible offenders? Commit a sex crime and get off with probation? There was a man on the news just the other day, he was on probation after having been charged with 7 counts as a sex offender! He was allowed to violate his probation multiple times, have contact with a minor and fail to contact his probation officer before they hauled him into court, then they only sentenced him to jail for 10 years. That is not what I call justice. Someone, or multiple someones, are suffering because of the choices that man made. Please go to our State Legislature’s Website here and ask for tougher sentences for sex offenders. This would mean a lot to me as I am a survivor.
Regarding the many missing persons here. The Big Island is small and rural compared to many places on the mainland. You can drive around it in a day if you’re ambitious. There are many small towns and two larger towns (Hilo and Kona). The bad news is there’s a lot of places where people who don’t want to be found can hide, and there are a lot of places where people can ‘hide’ people. The most rural areas are Kau, North & South Kohala, Pololuu Valley, Waimanu Valley, Waipio Valley, Puna & Volcano. In South Kona there are areas where a person can drop off the map, like below Kealakekua, Hookena, Kealia, Milolii… In the Kau District there’s Ocean View, there are a lot of places in Ocean View that are miles off the road that I would never venture onto. There’s drugs, violence, you hear of criminals hiding out… So basically, if someone is missing and they were taken or they were hiding for some reason, those would be the places to look, depending on where they disappeared from. And there have been a lot of people going missing, a lot without a trace or barely a trace, particularly in the last ten years. A friend of mine from High School went missing in 2011. There are some others from Kona, but there are a lot from Hilo side. A lot of those are from Puna. Someone remarked that a lot of the people who are missing are white, and yes for some reason that is true. Most are also women. That factor scares us women in Hawaii and we want answers that haven’t been forthcoming from the police or government. There’s also no ‘official’ missing persons website for our State or our island. Please click here to write Mayor Billy Kenoi to change that. With regards to our State, well, I’ve written to Gov. Abercrombie, but have received no response and that is typical for him.
Another issue I want to briefly touch upon: human trafficking. It is real and it happens on our islands, particularly on Maui and the Big Island. In 2010, the NY Times wrote an article shaming our State on its poor response to human trafficking; we had received an F on how we dealt with it. Farm owners bring foreign workers into the State with the promise of citizenship and freedom and it is all a lie, instead they endure forced labor and threats, even beatings, and they often can’t get away because the ‘owner’ has their documentation and money. The other kind of human trafficking is sex trafficking. These are young men who are out there targeting young girls, teenagers usually. They target them in places like malls. They act like they are these girls’ boyfriends, get to know everything about them, get the girls to trust them, then they bring the girls in to their boss. Once there, the girls are threatened, told their families will be harmed if they don’t cooperate, their identification held, their training started. When they are deemed “ready,” they are put out into the streets under careful watch and forced to work in the sex trade. Please inform your teenagers and younger relatives of this and to be very wary of this scheme, it is real and out there. Sexual predators aren’t just hiding in the bushes.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.
My friend who is missing is Naomi Monica Shalom Sanders, maiden name Naomi Beshore.
I want to mention that I have been following the missing women in Maui as well.
What’s going on there is very scary. I want to help find Charli & her baby Joshua, if you know anything, please click here to help.
If you can help bring Moreira Monsalve home to her Maui Ohana, click here.