In Waikiki, aggressive panhandling from 'fake monks' draws concern

EXCLUSIVE: Businesses complain about "fake monks"
Updated: Dec. 28, 2016 at 8:07 PM HST
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Seen in this recording, one of the 'monks' presents a bracelet and then requests donations....
Seen in this recording, one of the 'monks' presents a bracelet and then requests donations. (Image: Kelli Ishisaki)

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - On the sidewalks of Kalakaua and Kuhio avenues in the past month, men in orange robes are hitting up tourists and workers for donations -- sometimes aggressively.

Some call them "fake monks."

"I see them around every day and they're hustling and they always want money," Waipahu resident Kevin Smith said.

Crystal Palacios, who manages Kristals Cosmetics in Waikiki, said some tourists feel harassed by the panhandlers.

"I feel like it's a big scam and it probably is because monks don't try to hit on chicks and that's what he did to me after I didn't give him money," she said.

Earlier this week, Hawaii News Now spotted at least three robed men working both ends of Kalakaua Avenue and the Diamond Head side of Kuhio Avenue.

HNN asked to talk to two of them but they said nothing.

Video footage captured by HNN shows the "fake monks" chatting up people, offering bracelets or medallions.

Some ask potential donors for their names, which they write down in a notebook. Then they ask for a donation. If no money is given, they sometimes take back their token gift.

That takeback may violate the city's anti-panhandling and anti-peddling laws, some said.

"If they're asking for money and they take it back, they're selling something. That's also against the law. You cannot sell stuff on the street in Waikiki," said Walt Flood, a member of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board.

"You're allowed to beg but you're not allowed to approach somebody walking down and (not) let them go by."

Police said they watch for illegal peddling, but don't track citations against any particular group.

The monks don't appear to express any particular beliefs, and they are similar to other documented of "fake monks" in other cities. New York City and San Francisco are among numerous cities around the globe seeing these so-called monks and their aggressive panhandling.

Some Buddhist leaders are urging people not to give, saying real monks would not act like that.

And in Waikiki, some worry the aggressive monks could hurt Hawaii's image among visitors.

"Sooner or later this is like, whoa Hollywood Boulevard, Times Square," said Flood.

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