"Top Cop" On Hawaii Campus Is Honored
Sgt. Alberta Pukahi Recognized For Efforts To Keep Students Safe
The University of Hawaii is a place of higher learning but some students are also getting a harsh life lesson because of rapes and other sex crimes committed on campus.
Many find the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus to be a quiet one.
But the security team's "top cop" Alberta Pukahi said it is too quiet when it comes to reporting sex assaults.
"Students are reluctant to report. I think if awareness and education was higher the numbers would also be higher, they'd be willing to report," said Pukahi.
For 2010 and so far this year, only two dozen sex offenses have been reported.
According to federal reports, that is not a lot for a campus this size.
Many students do feel safe walking around, even at night.
"I usually feel pretty safe cause we have the stacks with the phone and we have the campus escort," said UH senior Elena Chen.
There are over 60 of the "stacks" -- stations that can alert security to any kind of personal emergency. Concerned students can also be escorted at night, or even seek a ride across campus.
While campus security is usually notified of other crimes like assaults or robberies, traditionally sex assaults are vastly under-reported.
Some students understand why women are reluctant to alert authorities.
"One of my friends had been sexually assaulted and when it got out that it involved people that were in the public eye, she felt ashamed. She didn't want her name to get out there," said UH senior Allyson Estrella.
Pukahi encourages everyone to be safe and she also encourages victims to seek help and report the crime, even though that has proven difficult for many students. "They fear repercussions, they fear their parents, they're afraid of the process but we're here to help," said Pukahi.
Along with the safety measures already on campus, an effort is underway to set up a security substation in student housing.
Pukahi will be honored for her 24 years of service at the University of Hawaii, and will be recognized along with other law enforcement "top cops" at a ceremony on Thursday.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.