Community leaders seek to ban chronic criminals from returning to Waikiki, other resort areas

Community leaders are backing a proposal that would ban chronic criminals who break the law in Waikiki from returning to the tourism district.
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 4:22 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2022 at 4:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Community leaders are backing a proposal that would ban chronic criminals who break the law in Waikiki from returning to the tourism district.

If the bill is passed, the same rules would apply to other business and resort districts. too.

The effort comes in the wake of a flurry of high-profile crimes in Waikiki over the past nine months, including an arson that destroyed a city surfboard rack and an attack that killed a tourist on the beach.

Robert Finley, chair of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board, says that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“We’ve still got a whole group of people who feel like it’s there job to steal stuff from our convenience stores, to panhandle tourists, to threaten our residents. And I think HB1502 will help,” he said.

Under the measure, those convicted of four misdemeanors in the same business district or resort area would be banned from coming back. Exactly for how long is still up for debate. Anyone caught returning would face another misdemeanor violation punishable by up to 30 days in jail.

The rules do not apply if the person convicted lives or works within the district.

While the idea for the bill was brought forth by Waikiki residents, if it’s passed it would apply to all of Oahu’s business districts and resort areas.

“We have families and senior citizens who are scared they are going to become victims,” said state Rep. Adrian Tam, who represents Waikiki and Ala Moana. He said residents teamed up with HPD for neighborhood patrols in an effort to deter criminal activity but more is needed.

“Members of the patrol have found 85 repeat offenders all who have been arrested and cited in Waikiki and the number continues to grow,” Tam said.

Meanwhile, some opponents to the bill say it sets a dangerous precedent.

“The last thing I think Hawaii wants to become is a place where there’s certain enclaves where locals aren’t allowed regardless of the reason,” said state Rep. Matt LoPresti.

The state Attorney General’s Office also opposes it, saying the proposal undercuts existing laws intended to accomplish the same thing.

“If geographical restrictions are not being recommended by the prosecutors that’s an issue that can be addressed with the prosecutors,” said deputy Attorney General Adrian Dhakhwa.

“If judges are not issuing geographical restrictions for these types of defendants that’s also an issue that can be addressed separately.”

It’s unclear if the measure will get much further. While it did pass its second hearing, it got an unusual number of no votes.

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