Out-of-State and Foreign Visitor Crimes in Hawaii


Out-of-State and Foreign Visitor Crimes in Hawaii

Hawaii is a popular tourist destination, receiving over 10 million visitors per year[1]. While most come to enjoy the islands’ natural beauty and culture, a small percentage engage in criminal activity. This article examines crimes committed by visitors in Hawaii, their impacts on locals, and potential solutions.

Overview of Visitor Crime in Hawaii

Around 13% of arrests in Hawaii are of non-residents[2]. Visitor arrest rates are 2-3 times higher than local resident rates for crimes like larceny/theft, liquor law violations, and disorderly conduct[3].

Some factors that contribute to higher visitor crime rates:

  • Large influxes of tourists lead to more opportunities for crime. With over 30,000 visitors daily, criminals have endless targets[4].
  • Tourists often carry cash and valuables like cameras and jewelry, making them attractive marks for thieves[5].
  • Visitors on vacation may be more careless with belongings or engage in excessive drinking and rowdy behavior[6].
  • Repeat offenders know they can’t be easily tracked once they leave the islands.

While most visitor crimes are non-violent, assaults and rapes do occur. One study found tourists have a 50% higher rate of person crimes compared to locals.

Impacts of Visitor Crime on Hawaii Residents

Though representing a small percentage of total crime, offenses by visitors have disproportionate impacts on Hawaii residents:

  • Locals feel less safe and must take precautions to avoid becoming victims. Crimes make the news, damaging Hawaii’s reputation as a safe destination.
  • Police must devote more resources to monitoring and responding to tourist hotspots like Waikiki, diverting them from other communities.
  • Native Hawaiians report disrespectful treatment from visitors like trespassing on sacred spaces or misusing cultural symbols.
  • Environmental damage from tourists like coral reef trampling or graffiti vandalism hurts local conservation efforts.
  • Visitors who commit serious crimes but flee Hawaii before arrest are difficult and costly to extradite back for prosecution.

Factors Contributing to Visitor Misbehavior

There are several reasons why visitors, especially foreign tourists, may engage in criminal or disrespectful activity:

  • Lack of awareness of local laws, customs, and cultural sensitivities. Assumptions that “anything goes” on vacation.
  • Language barriers – misunderstandings lead to inadvertent offenses.
  • Anonymity and lack of connection to Hawaii results in less concern over consequences.
  • Alcohol abuse is higher among tourists and lowers inhibitions against crime and rowdy behavior.
  • Some foreign tourists come from countries with very different laws and social norms.
  • Youthful risk-taking and peer pressure among visiting student groups.

Efforts to Curb Visitor Crime and Its Impacts

Concerned by negative effects on locals, Hawaii has implemented various policies to reduce visitor offenses:

Education campaigns – Airlines show incoming tourists videos on respecting Hawaii’s people and environment. Hotels distribute “do’s and don’ts” cards upon check-in.

Fines and penalties – Hawaii passed laws increasing fines for common visitor crimes like illegal hiking, marine life disturbance, and rental car violations.

Visitation limits – Permits, reservations or caps restrict visitor numbers at popular sites to ease overcrowding and environmental damage.

Enforcement – Police use marked vehicles and bike patrols to increase visibility at tourist hotspots. Repeat offender databases help track visitors with prior arrests.

Community involvement – Neighborhood watches report issues in their areas to police and tourism officials. Locals can report disrespectful tourist behavior via mobile apps.

Cultural education – Free or low-cost classes teach visitors about Hawaiian history, values, and cultural sites. Some hotels and tour companies now integrate this into their services.

Alternative tourism – Community-based tourism routes visitors to less-visited areas, spreading economic benefits and reducing pressure on hotspots.