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Government & Politics

Governor: Despite Recent Crimes, Hawaii Still Safe

Ryan Finnerty / HPR

Despite a recent high-profile shooting that left two police officers dead and a series of violent robberies, some targeting elderly victims, Hawaii Gov. David Ige says he still believes Hawaii is a safe place to live.

That is supported by data from the Department of Justice, which shows in 2019 Hawaii had one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the past 30 years.

"Yes, there appears to be an increase [in crime] and I do know that part of it is, you know, that media is definitely more accessible -- everybody has a recording device now days so certainly instances get more coverage," Ige said.

That being said, the governor added that he supports "common sense" gun laws and that a couple of proposals have been submitted since the killing of the officers earlier this month in a Diamond Head neighborhood. 

The governor also discussed the challenges of addressing mental health and substance abuse issues within the criminal justice system. He said such cases are better dealt with outside of that system. Programs like the city's HONU tent and services program for the homeless can result in better outcomes, he said, and return individuals to lives as contributing citizens.

Ige said the challenge is the cost of these programs and, for the hard-core homeless, their refusal to accept services and treatment.

He sees housing initiatives as the long-term solution to homelessness. He pointed to several affordable housing projects that are becoming available and which will contribute to the goal of moving individuals into housing.

Clearly, he said, law enforcement has a role and can help encourage people to accept services, especially if the alternative could be incarceration. 

"I think as we get more of these affordable housing projects online, there will be more options, and hopefully they'll recognize that it's better to be off the streets than on the streets," he said.

Part 2 of the interview with the governor will air on Wednesday and covers the governor’s goals for his final term in office, including the “decarbonizing” of Hawaii’s economy.

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