It’s said crime doesn’t take a vacation, but because of the statewide emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the daily booking log at the police station is a lot shorter than usual.
Comparisons of daily arrest numbers by the Tribune-Herald prior to and since Gov. David Ige’s emergency stay-at-home order was put in place March 25 indicate there are about 33% fewer arrests daily.
“Arrest numbers have gone down,” Police Chief Ferreira confirmed. “And there’s a lot of explanations as to why the numbers would go down.”
He said that “for certain crimes that do not pose a threat to the community, they’re getting away with a citation.”
“We’re not actively going out there and pursuing (suspects on) bench warrants,” Ferreira said. “In other words, if you got a traffic ticket in February, and you got a bench warrant for not appearing in court, we’re not even looking at those warrants, because even if we arrest them, we’re putting them back out in the community and giving them a court date in June.
“The other thing that drops the numbers, as well, are the DUI arrests. Because the bars are closed, and because of the stay-at-home order, you have less people on the roadway.”
Ferreira said officers are still arresting parolees wanted for violating terms of parole, however.
“And any sort of violent crime, those arrests are going to happen,” he added.
Some who have been arrested and charged with serious property crimes have had judges eliminate their cash bail during their initial court appearances because of state Supreme Court-mandated population reductions in the state’s jails and prisons.
“It’s a Catch-22,” Ferreira said, talking about the tag-and-release approach being taken by the criminal justice system in the hope of preventing an outbreak of coronavirus infection among those who are incarcerated.
“Nobody wants to see an outbreak, anywhere, and officers don’t want to crowd the jails, either,” Ferreira said.
County police still have primary responsibility for enforcing the 14-day quarantine of visitors who arrive on interisland flights.
“Right now, the process that is in place is Hawaii Tourism Authority collects the names and gets the information at the airports. … That information is passed on to Civil Defense and, in turn, our dispatch center. Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaii Visitors (and Conventions) Bureau and Civil Defense all make checks on the individuals who are here and that are put on the 14-day quarantine.
“If they are not able to contact one of those individuals, we get called. And then we go out and we verify.”
Police have also been busy with those who violate the emergency stay-at-home order and social distancing requirements.
“We had 16 people gathered down at Kahuku Ranch the other day,” Ferreira said last week.
According to Maj. Samuel Jelsma, all 16, who allegedly were partying on the beach at Pohue Bay and consuming alcoholic beverages, were issued citations for second-degree trespassing and violating the state’s stay-at-home order.
“This was in response to a complaint from a land manager of persons trespassing both with vehicles and on foot through property. They managed bypassing ‘No Trespassing’ signs and dismantling and removing barricades that were put in place to keep unauthorized personnel out,” Jelsma said in an email Thursday.
He said those cited were both men and women and ranged in age from 20 to 47. One was a visitor from California who was not on the 14-day quarantine list, while the remainder were residents of Ocean View, Naalehu, Captain Cook, Kailua-Kona, Keaau, Pahoa and Hilo.
Pohue Bay is in Ka‘u, where one individual was arrested and 22 cited for violating the emergency stay-at-home order during the week of April 8-14.
Other arrests and citations for the week include: South Hilo, 11 arrests and seven citations; South Kohala, three arrests and eight citations; Kona, one arrest and 22 citations; North Kohala, 13 citations; Hamakua, five citations; and Puna, one arrest.
In the three weeks the stay-at-home order has been in effect, total enforcement late last week was 40 arrests and 115 citations issued, police said.
Violation of the stay-at-home order is a misdemeanor offense, and a conviction is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
Ferreira noted the stay-at-home order doesn’t necessarily mean people are to confine themselves within their houses.
He said people can take a walk, jog, even go to the beach for a swim or to surf, but “don’t bring your coolers, your beer and your buddies.”
“We encourage people to get out into their yards and to exercise when they can,” he said. “People think stay-at-home means you have to lock yourself inside your house. That’s how people go stir crazy.
“They can go outside, pull weeds in the garden, mow their lawns, wash their car, do whatever they can to keep them active.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.