City plans to revitalize Chinatown, but business owners say crime is the biggest issue

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 11:12 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Earlier this month, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he has a plan to fix major problems in Chinatown and efforts include beautification and security.

Broken sidewalks will be fixed, trees will be planted and bus stops and parking facilities will be improved, according to the mayor.

There will also be upgrades to the bus stops and the Kekaulike Mall.

But business owners in the area said their main concerns aren’t with infrastructure, but with security.

Some said there seems to be more issues here since the pandemic that have to do with individuals who are homeless.

“It’s the worst it’s been,” said Don Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bar and Grill. “Unfortunately, you just get used to it in my case. And that shouldn’t be the case. We should be trying to make it better rather than just getting used to it.

Blangiardi said that for future projects, cameras with access controls will be added to the neighborhood police station.

The hope is that the station will receive more upgrades.

There is also ongoing negotiations with River of Life Mission, a nearby facility serving the homeless, to move feeding services to Iwilei.

“We’ve seen vandalism, breaking the door, windows,” said Barinna Poon, the general manager for Maunakea Marketplace. “Sometimes the homeless will come in and steal our stuff.”

HPD said there are increased foot patrols, undercover officers working the area for drug and gambling investigations and members of their department doing homeless outreach.

But the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office wants to dig deeper and move the crime out of the neighborhood through its Weed and Seed program.

“You pick a geographic area, you get law enforcement organized, you ask the residents and businesses what the problems are, you weed out the crime,” said Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm. “And then when it’s safe, all sorts of social and community activities can take place.”

The prosecutor’s office hopes to prepare the courts for a bigger workload and ask for geographic restrictions for criminals. Those efforts will likely begin next month.

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