Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a series investigating how the Honolulu Police Department enforces Hawaii prostitution laws. Read our related coverage:
Want to hire a prostitute in Honolulu and get away with it? Do it on a Saturday.
A Civil Beat investigation of 12 months’ worth of prostitution arrests shows that there is virtually no enforcement of prostitution laws on weekends.
In one year’s time, Honolulu police made no prostitution arrests on Saturdays and just two arrests on a Sunday, and both of those were on the same day at the same location. That’s no prostitutes, johns or pimps arrested on the busiest night of the week. Police made a total of 214 arrests in a 12-month period, with weekends making up less than 1 percent of those arrests. Instead, the majority of all prostitution arrests took place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Honolulu police refused repeated requests for an interview and would only answer questions via email. The department declined to say whether its 90 officers in narcotics and vice work on weekends.
The department also could not explain why there were no arrests on a Saturday and just two on a Sunday.
“We do not track the arrests by day of the week,” a police spokeswoman wrote.
Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro was surprised to hear that just two arrests occurred on a weekend.
“You would think they would have more than that. I can’t explain it. You have to talk to the police about it,” he said.
The lack of weekend arrests shocked mainland crime experts.
“No arrests on a weekend? In some ways, it’s almost humorous because that is the time when the commercial sex market is the most active,” said Amy Farrell, Associate Director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice, which collects national data on human trafficking cases for the federal government. “You don’t not make an arrest on a Saturday or Sunday if you’re targeting the commercial sex market.”
human trafficking in Hawaii, an issue that had become a hot topic at the Legislature because the state was among just a handful that didn’t have a law criminalizing the practice. Prostitution is often directly linked to sex trafficking.
To find out how the Honolulu Police Department enforces prostitution laws, Civil Beat for one year tracked prostitution arrests through the daily police blotter, a public document that lists the names, addresses, etc., of every suspect arrested on Oahu.
For Norm Stamper, a former Seattle police chief, the concentration of arrests on weekdays in Honolulu raised questions about how the vice squad is staffed. In Seattle, it was common for his vice officers to work weekends and overnight shifts.
“The weekend arrest numbers raise a question of staffing, that also raises a question in my mind of labor unions,” he said, noting that labor contracts can affect when officers work.
Stamper said his vice officers in Seattle sometimes put their weekend stings on hold to help work major events or breaking investigations. But that still wouldn’t explain Honolulu’s absence of prostitution arrests on weekends for an entire year, he said.
Civil Beat tracked prostitution arrests for the one-year period beginning Feb. 1, 2011. The most popular day for police to make arrests was Wednesday. Out of 214 total arrests, police made 63 arrests, or roughly 30 percent, on Wednesdays.
|Day of Week||Number of Arrests|
The most common time for police to make their prostitution busts was between 9-10 p.m. During that hour, Honolulu police made one-third of all arrests. Just under half of the arrests took place between 10 p.m. and midnight, with about 15 percent of arrests occurring after midnight.
There were also a handful of arrests at unusual hours. One woman was arrested at 10:50 a.m. Five other arrests happened around lunchtime.
|Time of Day||Number of Arrests|
|11 p.m.-12 a.m.||50|
There were two exceptions to the rule when it came to weekend arrests.
On Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, Jong Im Hong, 33, and Chong Rueter, 56, were arrested for prostitution.
Both women were arrested at 10:40 p.m. at Rappongi Spa, a massage parlor that regularly posts ads on backpage.com, an adult services website. The massage parlor is located at 350 Ward Avenue, a two-story business complex notorious for prostitution activity and police busts.
Hong was charged with prostitution. Rueter was charged with prostitution, massaging without a license and operating a beauty shop without a license.
Both pleaded not guilty and are represented by William Harrison, a private attorney. On Feb. 15, both women appeared in court. Hong wore a faded blue T-shirt and capri jeans. Her deadpan expression never changed. Rueter wore a gray dress and appeared terrified. Rueter’s case has been continued to March 27.
In Hong’s case, the state was not ready to proceed — the HPD officers the prosecution needed were “in training” and not available to testify in court. As a result, the judge dismissed the case without prejudice.
—Nanea Kalani and Robert Brown contributed to this report
Coming tomorrow: Civil Beat counts the number of pimps caught in Honolulu police sweeps last year.