Honolulu's World's Safest City Accolade: Visitor Fact or Fiction?

Honolulu’s World’s Safest City Accolade: Visitor Fact or Fiction?

Honolulu has just been awarded the title of the “World’s Safest City” by Berkshire Hathaway’s annual Safest Destinations report. The honor was accepted by Hawaii Tourism, Mufi Hanemann, Mayor Blangiardi, and others. This recognition from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is based on their analysis of safety metrics ranging from health measures to crime rates. Honolulu scored high in safety for women, LGBTQ+ travelers, and travelers of color. The city was ranked 12th overall last year.

This comes on the heels of last month’s report we wrote about from Hawaii Tourism that said its own visitor survey confirmed similar ranks.

Yet, as you’ll see below, we receive countless comments that offer different points of view, and our own perceptions also don’t completely concur with either of these findings.

So does this global recognition accurately reflect the everyday reality in Honolulu, particularly from a Hawaii visitor perspective?

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Analyzing recent Honolulu crime statistics.

The latest crime statistics from the Honolulu Police Department reveal a more nuanced situation in relation to the city’s safety landscape, which may impact tourists more directly than the trip insurance survey.

Here’s a breakdown of the year-to-date crime rates comparing 2024 with the same period in 2023, focusing on crimes most relevant to visitors:

  • 👍 Theft Offenses: Overall, theft offenses have decreased by 11.6%, with significant reductions in motor vehicle thefts (-23.9%) and theft from motor vehicles (-35.9%). These figures suggest an improvement in the security of personal property, especially vehicles— a common concern for Hawaii visitors.
  • 👍 Robbery: Robbery rates have seen a decrease of 20.5%, indicating a safer environment for tourists in public spaces.
  • 👍Assault Offenses: While there has been a small decrease in overall assault offenses, the number of aggravated assaults has dropped by 9.6%, possibly reflecting better police handling of violent incidents such as in crowded tourist areas like Waikiki.
  • 👎 Prostitution Offenses: There has been a notable increase in prostitution offenses, with a rise of 800% from the previous year. This might be relevant for areas frequented by Honolulu visitors, reflecting changes in nighttime safety and/or possibly influencing visitors’ perception of safety.
  • 👎 Drug-Related Offenses: Drug offenses have increased by 5.2%, suggesting Hawaii’s ongoing challenges with drug activities overall, and in areas that could also affect tourists.
  • 👎Homicide – While not usually pertaining to visitors, the homicide rate has increased 100%, and kidnapping and abduction is up 45% over last year.
  • 👎Curfew-Loitering-Vagrancy – Up 222%, which may reflect issues associated with the increase in the Honolulu homeless population.
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Safety initiatives and public/visitor perception.

Despite varying statistics, Honolulu has implemented numerous safety initiatives designed to protect both residents and tourists. Programs like Safe and Sound Waikiki and community policing efforts have been significant. However, the perception of safety in Honolulu still varies, especially when isolated incidents or visible street-level problems are still encountered by visitors.

While now holding title of the “World’s Safest City,” the real situation is complex.

For Hawaii tourists, the experience of safety can be influenced more by local incidents and visible social issues than by statistically significant improvements in major crime. These nuances, missing from the accolade report or the information from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, is more honest and essential in providing an accurate depiction of what visitors can expect while traveling to Honolulu.

Honolulu visitor safety tips.

For visitors to Honolulu, remaining aware of their environment and taking precautions, especially such as securing personal belongings, staying in publicly accessed and well-lit areas at night, and remaining vigilant in crowded tourist spots can only enhance their safety and ensure a pleasant Hawaii vacation.

Your perception of Honolulu safety matters!

We were shocked to find nearly 1,000 comments on Beat of Hawaii that speak about crime, much of it is in Honolulu. Those below are from just the past weeks.

  • “Until the state starts getting serious about the crime, homelessness, drug use, and general pilau attitude of locals regarding tourists, the numbers will continue to fall.”
  • “Crime? What about the tourist who drowned last year, whose rental car was stolen right in the middle of the whole incident?”
  • “Hawaii should kiss the grounds for having tourists. Streets and bathrooms are neglected, prices are high, and the attitude is sour. Too many homeless and crime. Hawaii has never been a paradise for jobs, and now we will have more people on sidewalks!!!”
  • “Nassau in the Bahamas is currently dealing with a huge increase in street crime. Mexico is totally unsafe. Just ask any Texas resident like me. I’ll take Hawaii over them!”
  • “Look up the crime reports for Oahu, Maui, and all the islands. Stolen property and property crimes are the highest mentioned and all is public records information that are true facts and not made up. Again public records and free to Google by HPD etc. No made up stories here. Example search 2024 Oahu Crime and bam the link is first on the list. Have you ever heard of Hawaiian Ice? Well it’s not what goes in a Snow cone.”
  • “Google Honolulu’s 2024 crime report will display categories from violent to property crimes. Search for the area’s most dangerous and if it is safe to be there at night. Isolated and less populated areas seem to be targets for tourists. One point that an article stated was a tourist who looks like they have money is an easy target for a drug addict or homeless person. Mainly watch your surroundings and stay safe.”
  • “I left and went to the Philippines. Very little crime outside of Manilla. No taxes, no restrictions on Short Term rentals. No resentment from locals. No fees. No government hate to tourists and being forced into run-down overpriced crowded hotels. The cost of food and eating out is 70% less than in Hawaii. Environmentally, it is much more alive. Reefs. Ocean fishing. The government of Hawaii wants to enrich itself at the expense of its residents and tourists while it provides a substandard, unsafe product. I have no issue with the people and aloha spirit.”
  • “Before trying to convince the Japanese to come to Hawaii, Green should clean up crime and ongoing homelessness. I am sure they will easily convinced.”
  • “Oahu has serious problems with violent and nonviolent crime.”

Feedback from residents and visitors often provides a better ground-level perspective that differs from statistical analyses by police or data from trip insurance. Your input as recent visitors helps highlight concerns about issues like nighttime safety and homelessness in tourist-focused areas, and help provide a more complete picture of safety in Honolulu.

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11 thoughts on “Honolulu’s World’s Safest City Accolade: Visitor Fact or Fiction?”

  1. My wife and I have visited Hawaii for a month or so most winters since retirement in 2006. We have also travelled to many parts of the world and have found ourselves on our own in many cities such as Liverpool, Barcelona, Istanbul, Venice and many others. The only place we have ever felt threatened with bodily harm was in Hawaii – Honolulu, on the road to Hana and Poipu. These three times were isolated incidents for sure, almost all our interactions with native Hawaiians have been friendly. Given my personal experience though, I would not consider Honolulu the world’s “safest city.”

  2. Let’s see … l live on Amana Street. If it wasn’t for the fact that l wear ear plugs when l go moe moe, a few months ago, l could have walked out on my lani in da wee hours and literally watch two men be stabbed to death, down below in the parking of da illegal gaming room on Makaloa. Color me skeptical 🫤.

  3. When asked about this subject I tell people: “Yes Waikiki is safe, as long as you’re off the streets by about 10 pm… Kalihi? Sundown. Same for the beach parks.

    Best Regards

  4. This is completely incorrect information …

    I’m personal friends with 3 HPD Officers and they tell quite a different story — namely that much of the low-level crimes are simply Not reported by Department “policy”.

    When you don’t deal with drugs, vagrants, gambling, and prostitution — things usually get worse. That’s when the “low-level” crimes become more serious — i.e., witness the huge increase in homicides and kidnappings …

    I’ve personally been a crime victim in HNL on 4 occasions over the past 55+ years … so I think I’ve filled my quota.

    Best advice?? Keep your head on a swivel and Always be aware of your surroundings …

  5. Bwahahahahaha! There are so many safer cities globally than Honolulu, ……too many to list.

    Honolulu is short thousands of police officers, they cannot find any staff since everybody out-migrated and no in-migration is occurring due to the absurd housing costs – so less crime is being recorded since nobody is on the job.

    What a joke.

    1. I don’t doubt we may not have enough cops, but having and paying for thousands more would be a worse problem than the crime we have now. Can we please try ending the catch and release policies first?

  6. lies lies. Most crimes are Not reported. That is the only reason way . Blangiargi and Hannermsnn should be highly embarrassed for accepting such fake report .

  7. There is no way — none — that Honolulu, or any Hawaiian city, is safer than major cities in Singapore or Japan, including the city of Singapore itself, Marina Bay, Osaka, Sapporo, etc. Absolutely no way. The Berkshire list should not be trusted.

    1. Agree with you mostly Jack, especially when compared to Japanese cities, Singapore, and other Southeast Asian locations. However in comparison with mainland cities with comparable population, Honolulu stands out as a much safer place than say Memphis, St. Louis, Baltimore or New Orleans. Same goes for many Caribbean locations and all of Mexico and most of Central and South America.
      Aloha to all.

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