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How did we do our research?

This study was a joint effort by UH Hilo criminology students and East Hawai'i Cultural Center (EHCC) carried out over the Spring of 2023. Dr. Ellen Meiser, assistant professor of sociology, advised students along the way.


  • January - February 2023: Students researched the context of policing nationally, in the State of Hawai'i, and locally on the Big Island. The class also began learning about criminological theories of crime to better understand what forces influence individuals to commit crime. Carol Walker of EHCC joined the class to discuss the project.

  • February 2023: Students created a survey instrument complete with open- and close-ended questions with the goal of collecting extensive and reliable information on East Hawaii's policing and incarceration history from a variety of community perspectives. The instrument tested and then approved by EHCC staff.

  • March 2023: Students traveled throughout East Hawai'i (from Honoka'a to Ka'u) to conduct survey-interviews with 250 individuals. This region of the Big Island was targeted because it was the area once covered by Hawai'i Police Department officers stationed at the original precinct that inhabited the current EHCC building.

  • April 2023: The class analyzed data, determined key findings, and began creating study products (i.e., a digital flyer, panel presentation, study video, and this website). Hawai'i Police Department Police Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz joined the class to talk about his position in the Department, policing on Hawai'i Island, as well as review preliminary data findings.

  • May 2023: Students wrapped up various facets of the study and presented their work to EHCC staff for feedback. The project concluded with a presentation of products to EHCC, as well as a presentation of findings to community members at the May 20, 2023 "Community and Policing" event held by EHCC.

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Who did we talk to?

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Using personal social connections and random public surveys at common gathering places like Downtown Hilo and Prince Kuhio Plaza, UH Hilo students spoke to a variety of people who live in East Hawaii. Because this study was conducted to gain a better understanding of policing in East Hawai'i before 1970, students made an effort to seek out long-time residents of the area. Therefore, the average number of years lived respondents had lived in East Hawai'i was 31.46 (with a median of 26 years)


Individuals with a connection to law enforcement were also sought out to ensure a balanced perspective. This group was identified through personal connections as well as with help from the Hawai'i Police Department.


The resulting sample was varied and representative of the diverse community found in East Hawai'i.  


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Survey Instrument

Curious about the exact questions students asked? Click on the icon to the right and see our survey instrument!

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