Crusader Against Crime
On one fateful evening in Waikīkī, Chris Kim, then a student at Honolulu Community College, was at work as a valet when he heard screams.
Through the dark of the night, Kim spotted a woman struggling with an assailant. Quickly, he abandoned his post and ran to the scene.
As it turned out, the woman, a visitor from Japan, was attacked for her purse, and after a brief chase, Kim came out the hero. He couldn’t have known it at the time, but what he casually refers to as a mere knee-jerk reaction became a defining moment — a calling to fulfill an unquestionable desire to help others.
So it should come as no surprise that for the past 21 years, Kim has continued to respond to that passion by working as an officer with Honolulu Police Department.
These days, the sergeant serves as coordinator of CrimeStoppers Honolulu, as he has since late 2017. By teaming up with HPD, as well as various media and community partners, the nonprofit organization works to empower individuals to speak up and help reduce crime on the island by submitting anonymous tips.
And things certainly have been going well, to hear Kim tell it.
Last year, for example, CrimeStoppers fielded more than 3,088 tips from the public and issued 347 news releases that detailed wanted criminals, missing persons and current scams — a more than 200 percent increase from 2017.
Unsurprisingly, the stories of the success of CrimeStoppers that Kim has to share are many, and it is, he says, a testament to all that can be achieved when the people of Hawai‘i join forces.
“CrimeStoppers is very powerful,” says Kim. “It’s very effective in helping to combat crime in our community.”
In the mid-’80s, Kim was in middle school and growing up in Kapahulu, when he got his hands on a BB gun. With his two brothers in tow, the trio set about shooting at things, naturally.
Their antics, however, didn’t go unnoticed. Eventually, someone called the cops, and a lone officer arrived. The brothers, as Kim recalls, received quite the stern lecture.
Fast-forward to 2005, when Kim comes face-to-face with then CrimeStoppers Honolulu coordinator Sgt. Kim Buffett, the very officer who, as he puts it, “was yelling at us.”
At the time, Kim was just starting out in the Criminal Investigation Division, where he would go on to gain experience in sex crimes, family violence and other fields, before joining homicide. Which is how, one morning while taking his two young daughters to school, he was called to a suicide. (As Kim explains, homicide detectives respond to any number of deaths, not just murders.)
Soon, he found himself at the scene, a desolate wife sobbing nearby. A second call came in. Another suicide. But Kim stuck around to help clean up. That, he says, was a wakeup call. “I kind of told myself at that moment that I’m done,” says Kim. “It wasn’t because it was gross or whatever; it was because it didn’t bother me anymore.”
Buffett, meanwhile, was planning to retire and had approached Kim to suggest he throw his name into the hat for her position.
The timing was rather kismet. He was going through a divorce, juggling life as a single father with his role as a police officer, and it was no easy feat. With the lure of having a stable schedule for the benefit of his children, Kim made a go for it — and hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s been a good change, and I feel very blessed,” he says. “I can honestly say that I’m much happier now.”
With such a noticeable uptick in community involvement since 2017, it might appear that an army has taken charge of CrimeStoppers.
Nope. That’s just Kim, says officer Glenda Cabras, who, along with civilian clerk Donna Takahashi-Gomes and 22 volunteers, make up the CrimeStoppers team.
“He is really focused on doing what he can to help keep our island safe,” says Cabras, who also worked with Buffett. “He has brought a lot of new ideas and ways to promote the program.”
“Chris is a dedicated police sergeant who is doing his best to see that the efforts of CrimeStoppers is successful and keeps the community safe,” adds Lee Donohue, former police chief and CrimeS-toppers Honolulu board president.
Together, Kim and Cabras work to man the organization’s three main facets: CrimeStoppers; Student CrimeStoppers, which encourages youth to be proactive and keep their schools safe; and Animal CrimeS-toppers, a partnership with Hawaiian Humane Society that takes in tips regarding animal cruelty.
To keep the community informed, the duo regularly gives presentations to students and seniors, and at neighborhood events — and it’s thanks to their hard work that the organization’s statistics are astronomical.
The Student CrimeStoppers program, for example, has seen a 400 percent increase since 2017 in the amount of tips it receives from youth who witness their peers bringing contraband items to school, bullying others or, in the recent case of three teenage boys, sexually assaulting another student — all of it reported anonymously, as all things with CrimeStoppers are.
“Since its inception, it’s been a valuable tool for our investigators,” says HPD Chief Susan Ballard of the organization. “Most people will report illegal activity if they can do so safely and easily, and CrimeStoppers gives them that opportunity.”
To say that taking on the role of coordinator of CrimeStoppers was quite the shift for Kim would be an understatement. As he is quick to point out, it undoubtedly is a different type of police work. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I just feel like I’ve kind of found my home,” says Kim, smiling. “I enjoy what I do.”
MORE ON SGT. CHRIS
Though Sgt. Chris Kim admits to having had an interest in law enforcement, his decision to apply for the police academy was primarily influenced by friends who decided to take the test, too.
In fact, Kim already had earned a degree in automotive mechanics, got licensed and certified, and landed a job, when a call from Honolulu Police Department with news of his acceptance changed everything.
“It was just one of those things that at that moment, I had to make a decision,” says the Kaimukī High School alumnus.
Of course, it turned out to be quite the fit.
More fun facts about Kim: he’s fluent in Japanese and Korean, has a black belt in taekwondo and also is on the crisis negotiation team.
WHO YOU GONNA CALL?
Established in 1981, nonprofit organization CrimeStoppers Honolulu provides the public with a safe line of communication to anonymously report crime and criminals on O‘ahu.
“CrimeStoppers is important to the community because it serves as a way that the community, in partnership with Honolulu Police Department, can work in concert to apprehend, convict, if need be, and incarcerate those that have broken laws and those that have broken the rules of their probation or parole,” says Lee Donohue, former police chief and CrimeStoppers Honolulu board president.
To send in anonymous tips, call 955-8300 (*CRIME on cell phones), visit honolulucrimestoppers.org or submit through the P3 Tips app.