Chinatown merchants fed up with crime, demand action

Chinatown merchants fed up with crime, demand action

Worse than ever and with no end in sight -- that's how some Chinatown merchants are describing conditions in their neighborhood.

There are 26 cameras set up throughout the Chinatown district, and merchants we spoke to say on any given night they capture drug dealers, thieves and vandals.

According to a recent report from the Honolulu Police Department—there's been one burglary, five car break-ins and 26 thefts in just the last two weeks. Officials say the statistics are "indicative of an on-going problem," but retailers we spoke to say it's worse than ever.

"Merchants are fed up. They have very little faith that they can rely on government to do anything," said Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, President of the Chinatown Business & Community Association. "They also feel like they are not making money in Chinatown. One of the reasons why Chinatown is suffering is because of the image—it's a dirty place, it's not a safe place."

"It is not hygienic. It is not clean. We have a public safety issue here. We have a sanitation issue—where people are defecating on the street, urinating on the streets," said Shubert-Kwock.

Otto, the owner of Otto Cakes, says he's been threatened by drug dealers and physically assaulted three times in just the past year, but he says he knows things in Chinatown have really gotten worse when he hears about it from his customers.

"I had one day -- like 17 people come in here and tell me how bad it was out there," said Otto.

Otto opened his shop on Smith in 2009, but has considered leaving.

"If I give up-- how much more? Then they've won," said Otto.

Linda Danz owns a hair salon down the street. She was robbed twice in just one week.

"It's not right. I wish – we have to do something before we get hurt," said Danz.

Danz shares Otto's frustrations that the criminal element has been getting away with too much for too long in Chinatown.

"I know police do their job, but not enough," said Danz.

A statement from the Honolulu Police Department says: "District 1 officers have partnered with residents and business owners to find ways to reduce crime. It goes on to say: "Uniformed officers patrol the area on foot, in cars, and on bicycles and Segways. Plainclothes officers are used to investigate crimes such as drugs and gambling."

"This is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States," said Shubert-Kwock. "We owe it to the world that this city is a very important historical site and we need to keep it clean, make it welcoming and make it safe."

Retailers and residents we spoke to think there needs to be a task force assigned to address the crime issue in Chinatown. They invite all community members and merchants to voice their concerns and share their suggestions this Thursday at the Downtown Chinatown neighborhood board meeting at 7 p.m. at the Pauahi Recreation Center.

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