Honolulu audit: streamlined domestic violence data needed

HONOLULU — An audit has called for the Honolulu Police Department and the prosecutor’s office to streamline data collection of domestic violence cases.

The audit by the Honolulu Office of the City Auditor said there needs to be data collection practices integrating both departments to reduce redundancy, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

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Tiffany Kaeo, division chief of the Family Prosecution Division in the prosecutor’s office, said data is collected on violations of Hawaii law regarding abuse of family or household members. However, other violations of the law could be domestic violence cases.

As an example, she said, if a woman is assaulted by her boyfriend who breaks her nose, that case will be classified as an assault, while someone who breaks a tourist’s nose would also be an assault.

“There’s no distinguishing way to identify domestic violence from those assaults,” Kaeo said.

The audit report also noted that domestic violence cases dropped about 31% in 2020 compared to the previous year.

But that doesn’t mean there was a reduction in domestic violence, because there was an increase in calls to a domestic violence help line during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Domestic Violence Action Center CEO Nanci Kreidman.

“Just because it might be happening in the home, it may not necessarily be reported to police or law enforcement,” Kaeo said.

Kaeo added: “And that explains why those agencies saw a significant increase but not necessarily prosecutions, or police involvement saw an increase.”

The police department completed four of the audit’s seven recommendations and three were still being resolved. The prosecutor’s office completed three of the 10 recommendations and seven were still being resolved.

The audit also recommended that lawyers in the prosecutor’s office work on the same domestic violence cases, instead of having multiple department lawyers switch cases while cases are pending.

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“The goal behind that for domestic violence prosecution is so the victim doesn’t have to repeat her story to so many people,” Kaeo said.

That can be difficult when the office is overwhelmed by the number of cases, she said.

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