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New prosecutor outlines his agenda in crime fight

    By Marcie Kagawa. November 7, 2011 - 5:52 pm

Proactive. 

That’s the most appropriate word to describe Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro’s approach to get to the roots of Hawaii’s crime problems.

“We are not only prosecuting cases,” Kaneshiro said, “but looking at the root of every problem. I am of the belief that prosecutors can make a big impact on policy.”

Since he took office in October 2010, Kaneshiro has focused on drug abuse and domestic violence.

Drug abuse, Kaneshiro said, is the biggest problem because it often leads a person to commit various other crimes.

“We are taking a multi-faceted approach, advocating for prevention and education, treatment, and intervention programs.”

In an effort to address the global impact of drug trafficking and its influence on Hawaii’s drug problem, Kaneshiro’s office sponsored a two-day international drug trafficking summit on Oct. 27-28, the first of its kind in Hawaii.

The summit brought together drug prosecutors from eight other countries, district attorneys from eight other states, and Hawaii law enforcement officials.

“Our goal is to develop contacts around the world,” Kaneshiro said. “Instead of waiting for the drugs to come to Hawaii, we want to have these people prosecuted in their own countries.”

According to the summit fact sheet, raw ingredients of crystal methamphetamine, the drug at the heart of Hawaii’s drug epidemic, make their way from Asia to countries bordering the U.S and are processed into meth. Eventually meth ends up in the hands of Hawaii drug dealers and abusers.

“Drug abuse isn’t just a local problem,” he said. “It’s a global problem.”

Kaneshiro’s office also has been involved in the development of the Honolulu Family Justice Center, slated to open in 2013.

The center will be a one-stop location for victims of domestic abuse, providing services ranging from legal aid to treatment and counseling.

It will also provide long-term transitional housing, as opposed to the short-term emergency shelters, to allow victims to regain their independence through opportunities to further their education or obtain vocational skills.

“To get victims out of the cycle of violence, we need to get them out of that environment and provide them with the means to get back on their feet,” he said.

Kaneshiro has increased the size of his domestic violence unit and said specialized training is being provided to unit members. The elderly abuse unit staff has also been beefed up. More emphasis is being put on initiatives to educate elders about recognizing abuse and how to report it. This has resulted in an increased number of active cases, he said.

For the Downtown community, Kaneshiro said prostitution is a big concern. However, he stressed that it is important to go beyond individual prostitutes to “knock down the financial structure” behind the problem.

“We are going after the organizations and people who profit [from prostitution],” he said.

Kaneshiro also advocated for a bill, passed by the Legislature this year, that makes promoting prostitution a Class A felony; makes “habitual solicitation of prostitution” a Class C felony; and gives victims of prostitution better access to witness protection.

Kaneshiro said his office is also focusing on crimes that had been relegated to the back burner. Animal cruelty cases are being actively prosecuted, as evidenced by the criminal case against the owners of a Waimanalo puppy mill.

Before his first stint as Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney in 1989-1996, Kaneshiro served as a deputy prosecutor and deputy attorney general.

He was Hawaii Director of Public Safety from 1997-1998.

 For more information visit http://www1.honolulu.gov/prosecuting/index.htm.