OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Private security guards are now patrolling 25 urban parks after hours as part of a pilot project officials say is aimed at cutting down on illegal activity.
The pilot kicked off April 1 at 25 city parks across east and west Honolulu.
The city said it's paying American Guard Services about $26,000 to secure parks with established closing times until the end of June.
At that point, the city plans to determine whether to keep the project alive.
Security officers are in clearly marked vehicles and uniforms, and park workers are still responsible for opening the parks in the morning.
While city officials say the initiative is primarily meant to deter crimes like vandalism, it comes as communities grapple with a homeless crisis that's triggered a broad government response.
Last year, the Hawaii Community Development Authority closed Kakaako Waterfront Park due to safety concerns regarding the homeless; around 180 people were living there at the time. The park was re-opened in January with stricter security enforcement.
But the city has also dealt with vandalism at park facilities that's destroyed everything from restroom facilities to playgrounds.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said vandalism in parks is a "constant challenge."
"It's one of the most difficult things I deal with because it's hard enough to do the basic job, but we're doing the basic job and someone's coming in, smashing up the sinks, the toilets and our restrooms — it becomes even harder," Caldwell said.
"There's been over 600 acts of vandalism in the last three years in our parks on this island, over 600!" Caldwell said. "And it diverts resources from raking leaves, to go into a restroom and put back a sink or a toilet."
The mayor also said that if the program works, security will be used at parks all over the island.
The parks that will have night security as part of the project are:
- Sandy Beach Park
- Koko Head District Park
- Waialae Beach Park
- Wilson Community Park
- Petrie Community Park
- Kapaolono Community Park
- Palolo Valley District Park
- Crane Community Park
- Kanewai Community Park
- Old Stadium Park
- Ala Wai Neighborhood Park
- Ala Wai Community Park
- Dole Community Park
- Smith-Beretania Park
- Aala Park
- Beretania Community Park
- Kauluwela Mall
- Na Pueo Mini Park
- Loi Kalo Mini Park
- Kalihi Uka Community Park
- Fern Community Park
- Keehi Lagoon Park
- Moanalua Community Park
- Ala Puumalu Community Park
- Salt Lake District Park