Honolulu Prosecutor: Prostitution Investigations 'Very Active'

Keith Kaneshiro

Editor's Note: This article is part of a series investigating how the Honolulu Police Department enforces Hawaii's prostitution laws.

Honolulu prosecutors say prostitution laws are being more aggressively enforced, and police are making more arrests on weekends.

"The police are very active in investigating these cases," said Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro. "Now they do arrests on Friday and Saturday nights."

The issue came up during a recent mayoral debate. Mayor Peter Carlisle insisted that the city was "vigorously" prosecuting men who solicit sex from prostitutes.

Civil Beat has been tracking how Honolulu police handle prostitution offenses because concern about sex trafficking in Hawaii has run high in recent years.

Earlier this year, our Cops, Prostitutes and Pimps series investigating the Honolulu Police Department's handling of Hawaii prostitution laws showed that enforcement of prostitution had been falling off in recent years. Police made fewer than half as many arrests in 2011 as they did five years ago. The series also revealed that there was virtually no enforcement on weekends; fewer than 1 percent of arrests in 2011 were made on weekends.

But HPD's arrest log for June indicates an uptick in prostitution-related arrests, at least for that month. The log shows that 30 people were arrested for prostitution-related crimes in June, more than any single month in 2011. None of the June arrests were recorded on a Saturday, but three arrests took place between 12 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. on Sundays. Last year, cops made no prostitution arrests on Saturdays and just two arrests on a Sunday, and both of those were on the same day at 10:40 p.m.

Police also made 12 arrests on Fridays in June. That's nearly half as many Friday arrests in just the one month as were made during all of 2011.

"It's my understanding their schedule has been altered so they do work Saturdays," said Deputy Prosecutor Kyle Dowd, who handles all prostitution cases for the city.

But the Honolulu Police Department says that there has been no change in policy.

"Our experience is that prostitution occurs on every day of the week and is not necessarily concentrated on the weekends," HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said in an email.

Sex trafficking victims advocates say they haven't noticed a major change in enforcement efforts.

"We don't see any difference," said Kathy Xian, executive director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. "But we're very hopeful that the prosecutor's office will succeed eventually in ending the demand."

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