Attempted baby snatching in Kapalama spurs calls for sit-lie ban expansion

With a petition in one hand and her 1-year-old in the other, Tiffany Lizares went door-to-door Tuesday, collecting signatures on Sumner Street in Iwilei.

Lizares says she's not one to get involved in politics, but an experience in January changed her outlook: She says her daughter was nearly kidnapped by a homeless woman.

"She ran straight to the car and reached in and tried to take my daughter out," said Lizares. "Luckily, there were two men there. They physically had to push her back with their bodies."

Over the past several weeks, the owner of Technics Jiu-Jitsu in Kalihi has gathered nearly 600 names, all in support of a proposed expansion to the city's the sit-lie ban. If the measure passes, it would become illegal to camp on sidewalks in the business districts of Iwilei and Kapalama.

Lizares says she shared her story with members of the Honolulu City Council. Others who attended had their own stories about how volatile the encampments have become.

"In the past two months there have been two deaths. One shooting, one stabbing," said one man, who has leased a building at the corner of Kuwili Street and Iwilei Road for 19-years. "Daily fights in the street."

"It's overwhelming, what's happening in the neighborhood," testified another area employee.

Outreach workers from the Institute for Human Services estimate there are about 130 people living in encampments in the area.

The population, though, doesn't want anything to do with their services. Despite hundreds of visits from outreach workers, only about a half-dozen people living there have tried to get off the street over the past two years.

When asked, a spokesperson for Honolulu police said the department didn't have statistics readily available, but they did confirm that they receive plenty of calls for vandalism, drugs and prostitution.

No one at Tuesday's testified in opposition to the ban, but some councilmembers warned sit-lie bills are not the answer.

"Legislation like this and setting policy or a tone continues to have government, with respect to the people who may be sitting or lying on a sidewalk, become a cat and mouse game," said Councilman Brandon Elefante.

While business owners wait for help, they're hoping they can hold out longer than some of their old neighbors.

"It's sad all the a lot of the businesses are gone," Lizares said. "On the main streets where the people are staying on the sidewalks there are businesses for sale.  Places for lease."

Bill 13 passed Tuesday's hearings. If it continues to get support, the measure could go into effect as early as May.

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