City leaders strategize ways to cut crime, homelessness in Waikiki
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Waikiki emerges from the pandemic, tourism is up but so is crime and homelessness.
“We certainly are seeing an increase in crime from the COVID days,” said Honolulu Prosecutor Steven Alm.
“I guess part of the problem is we just don’t feel as safe these days.”
Speaking on a town hall meeting on safety in Waikiki, Alm said many of the crimes are being committed by repeat offenders.
“We have tried to identify those thieves who are like stealing from stores in Waikiki blind. They go in there daily to steal things,” he said.
Waikiki resident and former journalist John Deutzman said many of these repeat offenders are terrorizing his neighborhood between the Waikiki police substation and Kapahulu Avenue.
“Sixty-three percent of the people arrested are what I call chronic offenders who have a real problem with behaving themselves,” he said.
“Forty-two are convicted felons. And some of them are very dangerous people with very dangerous rap sheets.”
The increase in crime also coincides with a rise in homelessness.
According to the nonprofit Partners In Care, the number of homeless people in Waikiki and other East Honolulu neighborhoods rose from 424 in 2020 to 575 this year.
“The street is not a home,” said Trish La Chica, executive director for Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s Office of Housing.
“You’re exposed to activities that not only get you into criminal activity and drug use (but) with a lot of other elements that put you in contact with police.”
Alm said he wants to go after habitual offenders by charging them with felonies when they commit even minor property crimes.
He also wants to expand the Weed and Seed program to Waikiki, which would allow prosecutors to charge offenders with a high bail to keep them off the streets.
This year, the state Legislature appropriated $300,000 for Weed and Seed on Oahu and nearly $2 million for the Institute for Human Services homeless programs.
“The community is really concerned about what is happening in Waikiki. Of course, Waikiki is the golden goose that’s laying the golden egg for our economy,” said City Council Chairman Tommy Waters.
“We want to make sure that it is a safe place to visit, work and live.”
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