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Honolulu is Hawaii’s largest city with a population of over 330,000 residents. Prostitution has been a visible and persistent problem in the city for decades, resulting in complaints to law enforcement. Sex trafficking has also become a growing concern in recent years with numerous adult and child sex trafficking cases being reported, including a case in which a girl with learning disabilities was trafficked and raped by her neighbor. Drugs and child sexual abuse materials have also been connected to the local commercial sex market. Organizations such as the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery (P.A.S.S.) have debated with state lawmakers about reforming existing trafficking laws. In June 2013, the Governor of Hawaii signed four bills related to human trafficking into law. These include Senate Bill 192, which made solicitation of a minor for prostitution a Class C felony, changed the minimum fine for the offense to $2,000, and extended the statute of limitations from two to six years. The bill also required convicted persons to register as sex offenders and subjects their assets to forfeiture. In March 2014, a controversy emerged over state laws that allowed male police officers to engage in sexual contact with prostituted persons as an investigative method. A focus on arresting buyers instead of prostituted persons would eliminate the need to use such questionable tactics.
The Honolulu Police Department has used a wide range of tactics to respond to sex trafficking and prostitution, including several strategies that target commercial sex buyers. The city began conducting reverse stings as early as 1997. Over time, operations expanded to include web stings and identity disclosure. After arrest, courts may also impose SOAP orders on offenders. This requires sex buyers to stay away from areas of the city known for high levels of prostitution activity. There have also been efforts to deter sex buying through public education, the use of surveillance cameras, and neighborhood patrols. Because of the high volume of tourists involved in Hawaii’s commercial sex trade, the Honolulu Police Department contended that auto seizures and “john schools” could not be implemented effectively since many buyers do not own cars locally or would be out of state for any post-arrest programming.
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred in Honolulu. For example, in May 2016, a Kapolei High School counselor was accused of soliciting prostitution from one of his former students. The man was indicted for allegedly responding to an online commercial sex ad depicting a runaway and a minor female. At his house, the man asked the victim if she recognized him. He then showed her his school identification badge and told her who he was. The accusations against the teacher did not come to light until after the victim was arrested for prostitution in a separate undercover sting that targeted prostituted persons. Prosecutors said the victim was sent to a juvenile detention center where she disclosed the incident with the teacher to a counselor at the center. The counselor contacted police, who then initiated an investigation into the incident. The man later was terminated from his employment and pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution. In a plea agreement with the prosecutor, the man was ordered to spend 3 months in jail, but was credited with time served, resulting in no jail time being served. He was also placed on probation for five years and required to register as a sex offender, prohibiting him from being in close contact with minors at all times or possessing or viewing pornography. The court additionally ordered the offender to write an apology to the victim and victim’s family.
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- Ten men arrested in prostitution ‘sting’ (1997)
- “Waikiki Prostitution Crackdown”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 3 1997.
- “Downtown Prostitution Sting Captures 9”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 1 2007.
- “Honolulu Prosecutor: Prostitution Investigations ‘Very Active'”, Honolulu Civil Beat, July 9 2012.
- Prostitution charges against alleged ‘johns’ in Honolulu dropped (2018)
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “Obama Pal Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, RT.com, April 7 2011.
- https://www.khon2.com/local-news/honolulu-police-officer-arrested-for-bribery-prostitution (2016)
Sex Buyer Arrests, Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:
- Kapolei High counselor indicted for soliciting underage prostitute (2016)
- Former Kapolei High counselor pleads guilty for soliciting minor for prostitution (2016)
- “City Revamps Effort to Oust Prostitutes from Waikiki at Night”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 17 1997.
- “Police Wary of Bill Aimed at Prostitution”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 21 2000.
- “Mirikitani’s Proposal from Twilite Zone”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 23 2000.
- “Honolulu Lite: Will Oahu Get All the No Prostitute Zones?”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 28 2000.
- “Police Want ‘Prostitution-Free’ Zone to Include Chinatown”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 26 2006.
- “Residents Rallying to Drive Out Hookers”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 27 2006.
- “Community Action Stirs Decrease in Prostitution”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 28 2006.
- “Critics of Prostitution Take to the Streets”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 1 2007.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Pimp, Prostitute Admit to Transporting Girl, 16”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 24 1998.
- “Group Sounds Child-Prostitution Alarm”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, February 26 2000.
- “Girls for Sale: A Three-Part Series on Teen Prostitution in Hawaii”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 24 2000.
- “2 Girls Found Sparkling Allure of Hawaii Sex Trade to Be Fool’s Gold”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 10 2001.
- “Isle Girls Victims of Prostitution Ring”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 17 2005.
- “Child-Prostitution Cases Reveal Cruel Underworld”, USA Today, July 26 2006.
- “Prostitution Bust Involves Isles”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 31 2006.
- “Three Charged in Prostitution Ring”, Hawaii Advertiser, May 27 2009.
- “Honolulu Man and Woman Indicted on Federal Sex Trafficking Charges”, Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice, June 18 2009.
- “Alleged Pimp Faces Charges of Kidnapping and Assault”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 4 2009.
- “Hawaii Man Who Served as Pimp for Minor Online Sentenced to 5 Years”, Honolulu Advertiser, May 10 2010.
- “350 Ward Avenue’s ‘Relaxation Parlors’ Hot Spot for Prostitution, State Licensing Violations”, Hawaii Reporter, March 5 2012.
- “Vaimili Case Exposes Ugly, Violent World of Sex Trafficking in Honolulu”, Hawaii Reporter, March 5 2012.
- “Paramedics Help Sex Trafficking Victims”, NBC/KHNL-TV 35, August 29 2012.
- “Hawaii’s Youngest Sex Trafficking Victims ‘Get Out’ When Rescued by First Responders”, Hawaii Reporter, August 31 2012.
- “Governor Signs Bills Protecting Women and Children”, Big Island Now, July 1 2013.
- Beyond Massage Parlors: Exposing the Korean Commercial Sex Market in the United States (2017)
- Sex Trafficking in Hawai‘i (2018)
- https://www.justice.gov/usao-hi/pr/honolulu-man-indicted-soliciting-commercial-sex-act-minor (2018)
- Hometown Heroes: The nurse aiming to end child sex trafficking in Hawaii (2019)
- “I felt so stuck:” Sex trafficking survivor shares her story (2022)
- Former Honolulu Police Officer Arrested for Sexual Exploitation of a Child (2022)
- https://www.staradvertiser.com/hawaii-news/former-honolulu-police-officer-accused-of-running-child-prostitution-ring-while-working-for-department (2022)
- https://www.justice.gov/usao-hi/pr/former-honolulu-police-officer-indicted-and-arrested-child-sex-offenses (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Honolulu Morals Told of in Official Report”, San Jose News, March 31 1932.
- “Underworld More Active in Honolulu Vice Racket”, Newburgh Evening News, October 18 1972.
- “Boom Under the Hula Moon”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 9 1999.
- “Volunteer Helps Get Prostitutes Off the Streets”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 8 2003.
- “Escaping a Life of Prostitution”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 23 2004.
- “Prostitution Rescue Agency Forced to Close”, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 26 2006.
- “Selling Sex in Honolulu: Police Focus Prostitution Arrests on Women, Not Men”, Honolulu Civil Beat, November 22 2010.
- “Cops, Prostitutes and Pimps: In One Year, One Pimp Arrested”, Honolulu Civil Beat, March 12 2012.
- “Hawaii Debates Law Allowing Cops to Have Sex with Prostitutes”, Time, March 21 2014.
- “In Hawaii, Sex with a Prostitute May Be Legal for Undercover Cops”, NPR, March 21 2014.
- https://www.businessinsider.com/honolulu-has-a-radical-new-way-to-enforce-prostitution (2015)
- A day after HPD raided 2 massage parlors, one appeared to be back open for business (2018)
- https://www.staradvertiser.com/hawaii-news/911-report/police-charge-3-women-with-promoting-prostitution-at-honolulu-massage-parlors-spas (2019)
- https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/honolulus-new-prosecutor-stops-massage-parlor-prostitution-raids (2021)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: