Crime in Waikiki a key focus of visitor public safety conference

Visitor and public safety in Waikiki are the focus of a conference Thursday as concerns mount over crime in Oahu's tourism hub.
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 11:58 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2022 at 12:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Hawaii works to welcome back international visitors in larger numbers, conversations like the ones being held Thursday at the Visitor Public Safety Conference are extremely important.

Community leaders, tourism organizations and local law enforcement officials are working to make Waikiki safer.

Prior to the conference at the Hawaii Convention Center, Hawaii News Now set out to see how everyday residents and visitors feel when it comes to their safety int one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

”It feels a little less safe, a little more aggression,” said Anne Vanheezik, who is visiting Waikiki from Holland.

”I think the safety is always is was always good. I feel very safe here,” added Wolfgang Danner, who is visiting Hawaii from Munich.

Anthony Aviles, who lives in Waikiki, added:

”I generally don’t feel nervous, but I do see the strange crowd that comes out at night and it does get kind of worrisome for other people, especially people traveling here, who don’t know any better.:

It’s that group of people who are the focus of Thursday’s mission and the primary discussion at the 2022 Visitor Public Safety Conference.

”It’s about taking a proactive approach to issues and concerns that we have here in Waikiki. So, today it’s all about mental illness, substance abuse and the much anticipated safe and sound program,” said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawai’i Lodging & Tourism Association.

The “Safe and Sound” initiative Hannemann is referring to started some two months ago.

It essentially allows the legal system to ban repeat offenders from Waikiki for six months at a time. If they’re seen back before that time is up, they can be arrested on site.

It’s a joint effort between HPD, the judiciary and Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm.

”Things do look a lot better and part of that is because HPD has been really active,” Alm said.

“They made a couple hundred arrests and we are prosecuting people. If people go into stores and steal all the time, we’re charging them with a habitual property offense, which is a felony. Some of them have horrible drug and alcohol problems and we’re going to try to send them to treatment.”

That part of the initiative the ‘sound’ in Safe and Sound’ may prove to be even more important: What to do with the chronically homeless, mentally ill and chemically dependent people who call the streets of Waikiki home?

Jennifer Nakayama, president and CEO of the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association, says that’s where an all too important public-private partnership comes into play.

The Kosasa Foundation has made charitable donation to the Waikiki Business Improvement District of $100,000 and that’s matched dollar for dollar by the city.

“This is us looking at the the gentler side of outreach and what can we do to engage the community in terms of at risk youth or maybe inspire a second chance employment program. So those that have been previously incarcerated or perhaps previously homeless, but really wants to reenter society, that’s a chance for them,” said Nakayama.