City seeks to address park vandalism amid effort to refurbish facilities

City seeks to address park vandalism amid effort to refurbish facilities
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the city unveiled its multi-million dollar makeover of a Kaimuki park on Monday, officials expressed concern about an uptick in vandalism of renovated park facilities.

Kanewai Community Park now has a new playground, accessible ramps, a new pool deck, and refurbished bathrooms.

The facilities are clean, shiny and new -- and officials want them to stay that way.

So they're trying new methods to prevent vandalism, including installing more security cameras and working more closely with police.

The city has grappled with costly park vandalism at a time when it's working to renovate aging facilities.

Fern Community Park's bathroom was vandalized earlier this month. Recently, the bathrooms at Ala Moana and Keehi Lagoon were also targeted.

But the worst damage was done to Kaiaka Beach Park in Waialua. The bathrooms were burned to the ground, as were portable toilets the city installed.

In recent years, the city has renovated 32 bathrooms, at a rate of about a dozen per year.

As facilities are renovated, officials are now weaving in measures to address vandalism.

At Hans L'Orange park in Waipahu, for example, motion-activated cameras installed last year are taking photos of everyone who walks into the bathroom after hours.

A bright flash goes off and a recorded warning tells people their picture has been taken, the park is closed and they should leave.

Has it worked?

It's made "a positive difference for us,"  said Michele Nekota, director of the city Parks and Recreation Department. "We haven't seen any vandalism since that time."

But the devices are expensive, at about $4,000 each. They also need to be mounted high up so they can't be tampered with.

The 24-hour bathroom in Waikiki near the Honolulu police substation has surveillance video cameras on the outside, which have helped deter crime.

Other bathrooms, meanwhile, have gotten gates with locks to keep people out overnight.

"I think that would help in preventing damage inside restrooms when no on can see them late at night," Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

The bathrooms that are being renovated will be equipped with the gates, but it will take time for the city to be able to retrofit gates for the 200-plus other park bathrooms on the island.

In the meantime, Caldwell is asking people who witness vandalism at parks to call police. He's also considering asking HPD officers to park and do reports in city parks at night, or make more passes while on patrol.

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