WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Waikiki business group is donating $100,000 to the city in exchange for more police patrols on Waikiki's sidewalks, a practice that's gone on for years and is drawing fire from one advocate for the homeless.
The program raises ethical questions about whether groups with money can get better police protection than other communities.
The Honolulu City Council is expected to approve the gift of $100,000 from the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association.
That's a nonprofit funded by Waikiki businesses which has been giving the city similar sums for at least five years to fund police enforcement on the sidewalks of Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues and other Waikiki roadways.
HPD said the special Waikiki patrols are staffed by off-duty officers who are paid overtime funded by businesses and do not take officers off the road from Waikiki or any other district.
Instead, HPD said they are scheduled extra details -- such as DUI and seat belt campaigns -- that conduct so-called nuisance enforcement along the sidewalks for petty crimes such as peddling, hand billing, littering, breaking the new sit-lie laws, or urinating on the sidewalks.
"We find it pretty problematic that a private industry can fund our city's police force, whereby controlling it to a certain extent. We feel that that's unethical," said Kathryn Xian, of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, who is an advocate for the homeless.
The Waikiki Business Improvement District Association has said it's not micro-managing the department and has not told HPD specifically what kinds of crimes to target. A representative of the WBIDA did not return Hawaii News Now's calls for comment Wedneday.
Xian said the group is clearly targeting the homeless.
"They don't necessarily need to give a directive to the police to make it obvious what they want. Their entire campaign for the last couple of years has been routing out the houseless from Waikiki," Xian said.
But a law enforcement expert says he does not see ethical problems with the arrangement.
"As long as the other areas of the island are not depleted for concentration in the Waikiki district, which I don't think it is, then everything should be all right," said Tommy Aiu, who spent three decades as a federal law enforcement officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration and has taught college criminal justice classes.
Aiu said business communities in cities across the country – including Las Vegas -- fund special enforcement by local law enforcement just like Honolulu.
"So it's important that we put resources there to safeguard our tourism industry, safeguard our community. All that comes into play," Aiu said.
In a statement, HPD said, the "funding allows supplemental officers to focus on activities that on-duty officers are unable to fully address because of the need to respond to service calls."
"All of the officers are off-duty; they are not on-duty officers who have been reassigned," HPD said.
The police department said the business-funded program spent $7,400 to conduct 10 operations in June, resulting in 30 arrests for contempt, five arrests and one citation for peddling and five citations each for smoking, hand billing and drug use.