Monday, Aug. The Hawaii Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking has begun hosting islandwide town hall meetings in an effort to educate the community about the issue and newly released data on sex trafficking that occurs on the Big Island.
The focus is to look at positive strategies, she added. Research showed many of the online sex buyers were Hawaii residents and many of the victims were local women. A third study is currently being conducted and is expected to be complete this fall. The study entails a large survey of youth and adults in Hawaii receiving supportive services and their experiences of exploitation.
The first town hall Stone hosted was in January in Ocean View. At each, Stone has led the discussion, talking about eight sectors identified by the coalition as areas where people can make a difference. The sectors are at-risk community, education, criminal justice and law enforcement, faith-based community, health care, business technology and media.
She listed ideas to improve educating the community about human trafficking and ways to stop it. Among them were strengthening the neighborhood watch program, educating students on human trafficking, encouraging collaboration between law enforcement and other service providers, training in the hospitality industry and documenting at-risk individuals when they come in for health care.
Ideas from the group included having a monthly movie night featuring a documentary on human trafficking. There were also ideas on ways to strengthen their reach on social media.
Melanie Mann was one of the participants at the meeting. The Kailua-Kona mother said she has been paying attention to the topic of sex trafficking for the past two to three years.
Mann said she started to see articles related to human trafficking coming out of Oahu and remembers being shocked. What are we not paying attention to? With a heightened sense of awareness to the human trafficking issue, Mann said, she notices more of the crime and violence that occurs in the community. I see it as a moral decay.
She believes that if more mothers can come together, more can be done. She talks about human trafficking at least every day. The next town hall meeting is scheduled for p.
Overall, the study showed one in 11 men in Hawaii searched online to pay for sex, and most of them were local buyers. Part one of the sex trafficking study looked at online sex buyers and the response to sex-buying demand.
Advertisements for sex were posted on the online classifieds site Back. Eight days after the study was completed, Back.
An ad posted on Big Island Back. An ad was also posted on March 30, Big Island locations were also included in the body of the texts sent to the Oahu ad posted on March 30, Part two of the study looked at childhood experiences, drugs and grooming among 22 survivors of sex trafficking.
According to the research, Of the 18 interviews conducted, Hawaii Police Lt. Reynold Kahalewai with Area II Vice Section defined human trafficking as anybody being forced to perform work against their will, which includes sex and labor. Hawaii Revised Statutes Kahalewai said police perform about six prostitution stings a year in West Hawaii.
Overall, he has not seen an increasing trend related to sex trafficking since when he was made lieutenant in the Vice unit. One ad posted by police can generate multiple arrests for either soliciting or promoting prostitution.
Kahalewai said many times they get individuals who are just curious. However, once someone is caught, Kahalewai said, they find innovative ways to not get caught in the future. Kahalewai indicated the department also posts advertisements in hopes of catching individuals committing sex trafficking and prostitution crimes.
However, Kahalewai said police have yet to arrest anyone connected to sex trafficking. When methamphetamine first started appearing on the Big Island in the s, First Deputy Prosecutor Dale Ross said, it was common to see dealers with access to young girls and boys. Vice reports of drug search warrants, Ross added, often showed houses with pornography and experts say sexual promiscuity was a common effect of the drug.
Twelve were from South Hilo and six from Kona. Nine pleaded guilty or no contest and were fined.
Four failed to appear in court and bench warrants were issued. The remainder had other dispositions. It has been difficult to catch and convict solicitors of prostitution and sex traffickers. The best thing people can do, Ross said, is to do their best to accurately report their observations if they are suspicious of something.
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