Vandalism at Wailupe Valley Elementary sparks criticism at city

Vandalism at Wailupe Valley Elementary sparks criticism at city
Ross Watanabe
Ross Watanabe
Honolulu Council member Charles Djou
Honolulu Council member Charles Djou

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

AINA HAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - There are new security measures at a former East Oahu school after vandals struck the campus.

It happened over the Thanksgiving weekend, and on Wednesday, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann ordered night-time patrols.

Some residents are saying 'I told you so'.

Since the school closed five months ago, residents say the city has failed to maintain the vacant property, leaving it open to crime.

Walls, doors, and playgrounds were maliciously defaced, windows were smashed, leaving a community broken.

"I went to school here, my daughter went to school here, I used to work here," said Ross Watanabe, an Aina Haina resident.

The crime adds insult to injury to those who fought for years to keep Wailupe Valley Elementary School open.

"Nothing's being done with it. It's going to waste," said Watanabe.

Up until Wednesday, residents say the school gates have been left unlocked since the closure.

The crime has sparked attention and action.

"Today's clean up work was the first time the city's done any clean up work here," said Honolulu Council member Charles Djou.

15 minutes before media showed up for Djou's press conference, city crews just finished putting a fresh coat of paint over the graffiti. City crews also cut the knee-high grass.

"The Parks Department had been regularly cutting the grass in that area there but with the rainfall that we received, obviously we shifted the personnel over to the more heavily used parks areas," said Mayor Hannemann.

The city is responsible for the vacant campus. It took ownership after the school closed and merged with Aina Haina Elementary to save the state money.

"The Hannemann Administration has been dragging its foot on asking for proposals as to what to do with this property and because they have no request for proposals out, there are a lot of people who are interested, but nothing on the books," said Djou.

"It's not that the city has been sitting idle. There's a process in place that we have to be very careful and very meticulous about," said Mayor Hannemann.

Hannemann says, under a city ordinance, first dibs on the property must go to city agencies.

But patience is thinning.

"I live up the street and I always see what's not being done," said Watanabe.

Concerned residents say as long as this property stays vacant, crime could strike again.

Mayor Hannemann says the city is looking at two options for the vacant campus- a Board of Water Supply storage tank system, or office space for the Parks and Recreation Department. He says those plans could take months.

Starting Wednesday night, the city implemented regular security in the evening at the school. Honolulu police will also conduct regular patrols there.