Gangs in Hawaii
In most neighborhoods and islands of Hawaii, the crime rate is very low. Hawaii residents can typically sleep soundly at night knowing the aloha spirit and family-oriented culture of the islands create a safe place to live. According to the FBI, in 2017 there were about 250 violent crimes per 100,000 people in Hawaii, much lower than the national rate of 394 violent crimes per 100,000 people.
The first Hawaii media-reported gang activity was in 1986, with an Oahu murder of a teenage gang member, which sparked a statewide awareness of gangs. Throughout the 1990s, there were less than 50 annual reports of gang activity in the local news, except 1996, when there were 125 reports. The Honolulu Police Department aggressively addressed this gang activity, with the assistance of Hawaii’s Youth Gang Response System, created by the Hawaii State Legislature in 1990. Through the implementation of prevention and intervention activities, from 2001 to 2004, there were zero reports of gang activity in the media.
Historically Hawaii gangs have not been as dangerous as those found elsewhere in the world. They are typically involved in graffiti, theft, and drug-related crime; murder or gun violence is rare in Hawaii.
Today on the island of Oahu, within the past couple years, there has been a slight uptick in gang activity. There are currently a few gang-affiliated street and hood areas in places like Aliamanu, Halawa, Waianae, Waipahu, and Kalihi. In July 2019, director of Adult Friends for Youth, Deb Spencer-Chun, said there are 14 identified gangs at Farrington High School in Kalihi.
The gangs’ main homes are in the low-income housing developments. Some are grouped with members of the same race, like Filipino, Hispanic, Micronesian, Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Vietnamese, and Tongan. While collecting data on gangs is difficult, with many operating incognito, there is some information on current gangs on Oahu.
The Halawa View Apartments or the Halawa Housing projects are a low-income housing development subsidized by the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development Division. Halawa is a neighborhood next to Aiea and near the Aloha Stadium. Halawa also houses one of Oahu’s main prisons. One gang found in the Halawa Housing projects is the 99 Street Halawa Mob Crips.
In Kalihi, there is a 555-unit low income housing development, Kuhio Park Terrace, which consists of two newly remodeled towers. Neighboring Kuhio Park Terrace is the Kuhio Homes, two-story low-income housing. In these large low-income housing developments, the KPT or Parccyde Sons of Samoa Crips gangs can be found.
In Kalihi Valley off the Likelike Highway, you will see the newly remodeled Kam IV Apartments, or Kamehameha Homes, which is public housing managed by the state of Hawaii. In this housing development, the Kam4 gang is established.
Also located in Kalihi but away from the valley and near Honolulu Community College, Mayor Wright Homes is another bigger low-income housing development with 363 units. It was built with federal funds and is now managed by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority. The gang found in Mayor Wright Homes is called MDubbz.
In Waipahu, there are a few streets that are known to have small gangs. On Aniani, there are the Awoodz. In Pupuole, there are the PuTown, and on Awanei there are the AWZ.
These gangs in Hawaii typically have formed due to the diverse cultures of the islands and economic struggles. Some Oahu gangs are branches of larger Mainland gangs and others are unique to certain neighborhoods or housing developments, mostly found in Honolulu or Waipahu. Despite having some gang population on Oahu, Hawaii overall has seen a decrease in juvenile arrests and gang activity since its peak in the mid-1990s.