Editor’s note: This Community Voice was one of numerous entries in our recently concluded Emerging Writers Contest.

“It must be nice living in Hawaii.”

That was one of many things my online friends have said to me when they learn I hail from Hawaii. I simply reply to them: “It is. But there’s a darkness hiding within those white sands and the green scenery.”

(Not my exact words, though close enough.)

I say this because growing up on Oahu, I have learned about its history, from Kamehameha I’s unification of the islands to Queen Liliuokalani’s overthrow of her rightful crown by white plantation owners. Even growing up now, I’ve seen many things, things that tourists should never lay their eyes on. Things that they remain ignorant of. Then again, ignorance is bliss.

For many people on the island of Oahu, crime seems to plague just about everybody. Thefts, robberies, hit-and-runs, drug abuse, homeless people, and even homicides.

Waikiki Beach Hotels visitor industry aerial.

Hawaii may be a paradise, but crime can make it seem like hell sometimes.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

I am born and raised here in Honolulu, just steps away from the tourist hub of Waikiki. I have experienced things that I would never wish on my worst enemy. I have heard stories, in real life as well as online. Crime after crime occurring in a supposed “paradise.” From news broadcasts about a stolen car with a child inside to online communities dedicated to featuring victims’ stories, crime is quite rampant.

I am a victim of a crime. I have had my entire purse stolen — wallet, keys, and phone included. It was a shock to me. I have had family and friends who have been victims of crimes, but it never sank in that I would eventually be a victim myself.

The pain runs deep in my veins. One never knows what they had lost until they dwell upon it. Even now, I still remember all that I had lost merely on my stolen cell phone — images, game data, the like — in which I had not backed up. I lived in ignorance thinking, “This wouldn’t happen to me, I just gotta be more careful.”

Despite The Darkness

I am still reluctant to step back to the crime scene where it happened. The crime took place at my old high school, in the JROTC building. My incident is an ironic shadow cast upon a place that’s supposed to teach young students how to be good people for their communities. There was a suspect in my mind, and yet neither the police nor I could do a single thing about it.

Despite all the pain, I love living here. There is a cultural uniqueness here that I know I’m unlikely to find elsewhere. People have a tendency to be surprised to hear that I live in Hawaii, when I say it online. Then they say things such as:

“I’ve always wanted to come to Hawaii!”

“Must be nice living there!”

“Isn’t that where the volcano erupted?”

I usually correct them, saying I live on a different island and thus am not subjected to Kilauea’s lava flows.

Despite the darkness, I always like it when people come here and learn about the culture here. So I wish to share a piece of my own culture as an Asian woman and also as someone who grew up in this unique mix that can only be called “Hawaii.”

So when online friends say, “I’ve always wanted to come to Hawaii!” I shoot a reply: “Make sure to hit me up whenever you all come around!”

And to also be careful going around the place.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author