In bid to combat crime, city hires private security guards to patrol Waikiki after dark

Private security teams are being used to patrol Waikiki at night as part of a new city effort designed to target crime.
Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 6:14 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 10, 2023 at 6:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Private security teams are being used to patrol Waikiki at night as part of a new city effort designed to target crime in the state’s no. 1 tourist destination.

The program started in June as a way to fill the gaps amid a shortage of Honolulu police officers.

Trevor Abarzua, president and executive director of the Waikiki Business Improvement District, said the security detail — made up of off-duty HPD officers — makes people feel safer.

“They know how to approach someone that might be committing a crime, or approach someone that doesn’t look like they belong,” he said.

On a recent evening, HNN watched the guards interacting with people on the beach.


Sometimes, they just had a friendly conversation. Other times, they warned them that Kuhio Beach Park would be closing at midnight and to be ready to move out.

The guards are all off-duty officers who work for Matt Levi Security. They’re dressed in black shirts that say ML Security on the front chest and the word “SECURITY” spans the back.

Most just carried a sling bag, because they are not allowed to carry all their HPD police gear — no handcuffs or belt with their duty weapon.

They are required to call police if a more serious response is needed.

A total of four guards work each shift, which is from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., seven nights a week.

The city’s contract with Matt Levi Security is for six months — through Nov. 30.

Federal post-pandemic recovery funds are covering the $450,000 price tag.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi worked with the Waikiki Business Improvement District to make the project happen. The improvement district requested the increased presence.

“This is a good thing for everyone, our local people, tourists, and our businesses,” he said.

HPD is short nearly 400 officers; that’s close to 20% of the force.

Abarzua said it’s unrealistic to think that on-duty officers have the time to do the tasks that the security guards pick up.

“Private security are solely dedicated to the beach,” Abarzua said, calling it a valuable resource.