Matthew Leonard: The Swiss Cheese That Is National Crime Data - Honolulu Civil Beat

Power local, independent journalism with a gift today and help us reach our goal of $250,000 by December 31.

Thanks to 738 donors, we've raised $108,000 so far!


Power local, independent journalism with a gift today and help us reach our goal of $250,000 by December 31.

Thanks to 738 donors, we've raised $108,000 so far!


About the Author

Matthew Leonard

Matthew Leonard is the data editor for Civil Beat and has worked in media and cultural organizations in both hemispheres since 1988. Follow him on Twitter at @mleonardmedia or email

Weʻll soon have a more comprehensive understanding of the victims of crime, including hate crimes, in Hawaii.

The most high-profile hate crime in Hawaii in recent times came to its conclusion in March last year, when two Native Hawaiian men were sentenced for their attack of Chris Kunzelman.

That case attracted national attention because of the anti-white bias that the court found underpinned the incident on West Maui almost a decade ago.

Without revisiting the specifics of that case, reports of crime motivated by anti-white bias are relatively rare according to the 2022 Crime in the Nation Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Nationally, only 8% of hate crimes involved racial bias towards white victims compared to 29% against people of color, the FBIʻs 2022 report found.

Those same numbers would have us believe that the dynamic flips in the Aloha State to 41% of hate crimes being motivated by anti-white bias, with anti-Black bias the next highest at 19% in 2022.

But, letʻs just stop right there for a moment because here is where we proceed with caution.

It turns out that our understanding of offenses in Hawaii, including hate crimes, has been incomplete and thatʻs hampered our ability to make meaningful national comparisons.

Happily that appears about to change, and here is why.

Up until 2021, the FBI had been primarily collating crime statistics for its Uniform Crime Reporting program using a system that had effectively been the same since the 1930s.

In January 2021 the FBI implemented a new standard for reporting crimes to the UCR program called the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS. NIBRS is far more comprehensive, the FBI says, identifying "when and where crime takes place, what form it takes, and the characteristics of its victims and perpetrators."

The change initially created a major pothole in the crimes reported to the bureau in 2021 as many departments had not made the shift. The transition to the NIBRS system is a significant challenge for local departments and requires among other things, a half-million-dollar computer setup.

Only around 60% of agencies nationwide were able to report under the old system or NIBRS that year, the policy analysis website Stateline found.

There were – and continue to be – limits to participation in the Uniform Crime Reporting program with only some states requiring their departments to submit data. The DOJ found that the 2022 NIBRS data represented around 73% of the population. Another 16% of agencies still submit using the old summary system, the FBI said.

But, there will never be 100% participation by law enforcement agencies in the NIBRS program.

So, the staggered adoption of the NIBRS standard by police departments means that extreme caution needs to be applied when tracking trends and attaching significance to the FBIʻs national data especially when comparing 2022 numbers with anything prior to the transition to NIBRS.

Thatʻs certainly the case here in Hawaii where the last of the four departments, Hawaii Police Department, only became NIBRS-accredited Oct. 2.

Maui PD got its certification last September, Kauai back in November 2021 and HPD has been on board since 2017.

The 2022 FBI numbers for Hawaii then, exclude Maui PD which was too late to be included in the reporting and Hawaii PD which had not qualified. That makes meaningful comparisons for last year impossible.

With all that said, the 100% NIBRS compliance of all four Hawaii police departments will significantly impact the level of detail we will have about crime going forward, according to Paul Perrone, head of statistical analysis at the Attorney General's Office and the state representative for the UCR program.

The major changes include the number of offenses that are tracked: 52 instead of the 10 currently, and a trove of additional data points. NIBRS also enables the inclusion of individual case files instead of just summaries.

And you can expect more crimes to be reported as a consequence of the change.

Thatʻs because the NIBRS data has a "no hierarchy" rule. Previously if multiple offenses occurred in the same incident, only the most serious of those would end up in the FBIʻs database. Some 12% of all crime incidents involve multiple offenses.

And the AGʻs office is very close to launching a new state data dashboard that will facilitate more cross-tabulations and opportunities for study, Perrone said.

Significantly, the NIBRS reporting will provide a level of demographic detail about the victims of crime that has never been available before. Both intimate partner violence and hate crimes will be highlighted topic areas within the revamped Hawaii dashboard, according to Perrone.

Likely fewer than 750 South Dakota natives now live in Hawaii according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. (Wikimedia Commons)

Dreaming Of A White Christmas?

Spare a thought for the 549 Vermonters who the U.S. Census Bureau believes are residing in Hawaii instead of catching the last of the fall foliage and snuggling up in their sweaters back in the Green Mountain state.

Close behind them will be the 743 South Dakota natives who are missing the early flakes forecast for late October in the home of Mount Rushmore.

We know this about our neighbors thanks to the annual snapshot from the bureau called the State Of Residence By Place Of Birth.

The Vermont/Hawaii connections of course date back at least as far as Hiram Bingham, born in Bennington, Vermont in 1789 and a leading light of the Protestant Christian mission to the islands.

The bureau also dropped its State-to-State Migration Flows data this month. These are one-year estimates based on the American Community Survey, so the margins of error can be consequential.

California took in over 10,500 former Hawaii residents last year, give or take 2,500. And yes, apparently some 38 Hawaii residents decided theyʻd had enough of endless sunshine and made their way to Vermont last year.

Mind you, the margin of error is +/- 62.

The census bureau is one thing, and Google Search is another.

Here are Hawaii's three most aspired states to move to according to an analysis of Google search traffic in October by real estate marketing company Hyperwired.

  1. Washington
  2. Texas
  3. California

But as always, the grass is always greener because the Evergreen State also makes it onto the list of the top three states where users are searching about relocating to Hawaii.

  1. Alaska
  2. Oregon
  3. Washington

Tracking Keiki Ready

You can now track the progress of Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke's Ready Keiki Initiative through an interactive map put together by the Hawaii Schools Facility Authority and the Hawaii Data Collaborative.

Youʻll recall the program launched in January is aiming to have 465 classrooms for 3- and 4-year-olds in place by 2032.

But where do those classrooms need to be?

SFAʻs Executive Director Keone Farias said the authority is using data from the census bureau and its education partners to better understand "the capacity of an area, the number of current students, the number of kindergarten classrooms, and whether the population is growing or declining."ʻ

You can also follow spending and construction progress at

Read this next:

Denby Fawcett: The Importance Of Salvaging Even Small Items From Lahaina's Ruins

Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.


About the Author

Matthew Leonard

Matthew Leonard is the data editor for Civil Beat and has worked in media and cultural organizations in both hemispheres since 1988. Follow him on Twitter at @mleonardmedia or email

Latest Comments (0)

Categorizing a crime against a white person as a hate crime is an uphill battle. On the other hand, many media outlets go out of their way to find examples of whites committing hate crimes against minorities even when there is little evidence that race was a motivation, or that a crime actually took place. Jussie Smollett and Amari Allen being just two examples. No place is perfect in dealing with issues surrounding race but Hawaii has always done exceptionally well in this department, relatively speaking. Openly celebrating, and even openly joking about, the racial diversity and the differences that made Hawaii the melting pot that it is, has helped Hawaii avoid some of the more serious racial dysfunctions that are seen on the mainland. I hope that Hawaii will continue to avoid these obsession with race. I think the honesty that Hawaii approaches issues surrounding race have allowed for a more accurate assembling of statistics. I remember Kill Haole Day but in my entire life never saw a Haole go looking to pick a fight with a Hawaiian.

Arewethereyet · 1 month ago

Why were white hate crimes highlighted in this article if it's still unclear how the changes will affect the data? I read this article expecting to see some kind of reason why or why not certain hate crimes were prevalent.

thequadehunter · 1 month ago

Whites are a minority in the state of Hawaii representing 25% of the population according to the Census Bureau. So, one would expect them to be disproportionately represented as hate crime victims in the state compared to the rest of the US. I'll caution people to be careful about either dismissing or excusing statistics because they don't fit preferred narratives.

Downhill_From_Here · 1 month ago

Join the conversation


IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email to submit an idea.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.