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Kailua-Kona is a city of around 23,000 residents located in Hawaii County. Until 2012, the city was not believed to have a significant problem with commercial sex. However, since 2012, police have learned more about ongoing prostitution and sex trafficking in the area. Victim advocates and police believe that sex trafficking occurs in Kailua but have made few arrests of pimps and sex traffickers. Prostitution and sex trafficking have occurred in the city, resulting in complaints from residents. Child sex trafficking has been documented along with the production of child sexual abuse materials.
In an effort to reduce demand for commercial sex in the city, police have conducted at least five reverse sting operations between 2008-2018, at least one of which was web-based. In June 2018, five men were arrested on suspicion of prostitution during a reverse sting conducted by the Hawaii Police Department’s Vice section. The arrests occurred at a local hotel when suspects attempted to solicit undercover female officers for sex. The identities and images of arrested sex buyers were included in news releases.
In fiscal year 2017-18, the prosecutor’s office charged 18 petty misdemeanor violations connected to offering to pay a fee to another to engage in sexual conduct. Twelve offenders were from South Hilo and six were from Kona. Nine pleaded guilty and were fined, and four failed to appear in court and bench warrants were issued. The remainder had other dispositions.
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “In Brief – Big Island; Seven Arrested on Prostitution Charges,” West Hawaii Today, June 11 2008.
- “Big Island Report; Would-Be ‘Johns’ Arrested,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, June 13 2008.
- “Prostitution Sting Targets Kailua-Kona,” West Hawaii Today, August 5 2010.
- “Six Charged in Sex Sting,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, August 5 2010.
- “Prostitution Sting Clarification 08-09-10,” Press Release, Hawaii Police Department, August 9 2010.
- https://www.hawaiipolice.com/prostitution-sting-clarification (2010)
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 5 Suspects,” Hawaii Tribune-Herald, January 27 2012.
- Combating sex trafficking: Coalition hosting town hall meetings to shine light on issue (2019)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- https://www.facebook.com/westhawaiitoday/posts/two-oahu-women-were-arrested-monday-afternoon-in-kailua-kona-and-charged-with-pr (2015)
- Woman arrested for prostitution (2017)
- Hawaii law on prostitution convictions is 1st in nation (2019)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- https://www.staradvertiser.com/hawaii-news/big-isle-man-charged-in-child-porn-and-prostitution-cases (2016)
- https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/hawaii-news/bail-denied-for-alleged-child-sex-trafficker (2016)
- Sex Trafficking in Hawai‘i (2018)
- https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/kailua-kona-man-sentenced-more-24-years-prison-production-child-pornography (2018)
- https://bigislandnow.com (2020)
- Despite saving hundreds of sex trafficking victims yearly, Hawaii has few prosecutions (2022)