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Most city surveillance cameras in Chinatown are broken and won’t be fixed

Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 2:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Cameras placed around the Chinatown area to help prevent and solve crime haven’t been usable for years, Hawaii News Now has learned.

There are 26 devices but 20 of them are inoperable, according to the Honolulu Police Department. “Unfortunately, the camera system is 23 years old,” the department said, in a statement.

The cameras and infrastructure are obsolete so broken pieces cannot be repaired.

They have to be replaced. The city’s technology department, which maintains the equipment, previously estimated a new system would cost about $200,000.

HPD's Chinatown station
HPD's Chinatown station(None)

Chu Lan Schubert-Kwok, president of the Chinatown Business Community Association, said the price tag put it out of reach for the area years ago.

“Other priorities took over,” she said. “Chinatown has kind of become the community where homeless come, drug addicts come.”

Last year, the city earmarked the money to finally upgrade the technology so the Chinatown system can be on par with the camera system that was installed in Waikiki in 2019.

That system was partially paid for by the tourism industry.

Honolulu Council member Carol Fukunaga, who represents the Chinatown district, said safety is a priority and the new technology is needed.

”There is a very valuable function that security cameras that are modern and efficient can actually add in their crime solving,” she said.

Monitoring the cameras is another issue.

Community volunteers used to do that in Chinatown, but interest dropped.

HPD said officers check the cameras but no one is assigned to monitor.

Kwok said she understands the police are busy but hopes HPD can hire someone to do that.

“Assign an officer or clerk or somebody who’s qualified to do this because you cannot count on volunteers, because volunteers can come and go,” she said.

The money earmarked for the upgrades has to be used by June 2022. Fukunaga said her staff is working with HPD and the community groups to determine if the new cameras should be placed in the same areas or if they need to adjust because of changing crime patterns.

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