Volunteer sleuths track down Hawaii's quarantine scofflaws

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Norm Tabije

In this June 7, 2020, photo provided by Norm Tabije, Angela Keen uses her home computer in Honolulu to do work for her Facebook group, Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers. The group, using the Hawaiian word for laws or rules, focuses on tracking down people who violate Hawaii's 14-day quarantine on travelers arriving to the state. (Norm Tabije via AP)

HONOLULU – Former longtime television reporter Angela Keen knows how to track people down.

During the coronavirus pandemic, she’s putting her skills to use finding tourists who defy Hawaii's mandatory two-week quarantine on arriving travelers.

When members of her Facebook group spot tourists posting about their beach trips on social media, Keen zeroes in on photos for clues like license plate numbers she can run down and distinctive furnishings she can match up with vacation rental listings.

Armed with a violator's name, she scours the internet for information, from criminal records to previous addresses.

“I start doing a deeper search with my reporter skills and try to dig things up to say, ‘Are they a risk? ... Do they come from a hot spot?'” said Keen, who was recently working in communications.

So far, volunteer sleuths with her group Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers — “kapu” can mean “rules” in Hawaiian — has helped find about 13 people on Oahu and 22 people on the Big Island who were later arrested by police, Keen said. Members on other islands assisted with other cases that led to arrests, she said.

Keen said group members are told not to approach potential violators and not to profile people because they look like outsiders. Lawmakers have credited the group with passing along information to authorities and not taking matters into their own hands.

Residents helping bring violators to justice is a unique approach to enforcing a quarantine requirement meant to contain the coronavirus, which could spread quickly on the islands if travelers bring it in and pose a threat to Hawaii's limited medical resources. While cases are surging in some states, the quarantine has helped Hawaii maintain some of the nation's lowest COVID-19 infection and mortality rates.