Honolulu Mayor focuses on Chinatown cleanup
The city and county says it's doing what it can to clean up Honolulu's Chinatown. Now, the mayor is calling out the state to do more. Parts of Honolulu's Chinatown have become a hotbed of trouble.
HONOLULU - The city and county says it's doing what it can to clean up Honolulu's Chinatown. Now, the mayor is calling out the state to do more.
Parts of Honolulu's Chinatown have become a hotbed of trouble. "It's a beautiful place that's been really challenged by the homeless and by crime," describes Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Last June, a high profile death near Maunakea Liquor & Grocery brought long-simmering complaints to a head. "Honolulu sportscaster John Noland was knocked to the ground there, hit his head, and passed away. We've had stabbings there, shootings there," recalls Mayor Caldwell.
The Honolulu Liquor Commission voted last Thursday to revoke the store's liquor permit. It is now in the bureaucratic process of doing that.
The Mayor says he's doing what he can, but the city has no health department, so it can't tackle it alone. "The state should step up - not just talk and walk around Chinatown, but actually say, 'Here are the things we can do to work with Chinatown.'" Mayor Caldwell says he's willing to work with the state in giving medical treatment to the homeless.
What he can do within his power, though, is make smaller changes. "Change some of the bus stop benches so you can't lie down. Removing a bench at Sun Yat Sen Park," he cites as an example.
He's also talking with Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard about increasing police presence. A challenge, though, is that HPD has 300 funded but vacant positions, so part of their discussion included how to recruit more officers. In a two hour walk around the neighborhood about two weeks ago, he shares that they "talked about how to recruit more people. Maybe creating a cadet service, more low level police force that would be more patrolling?"
Other ideas include private security. "We have private security in the parks. It's working really well. Now, they're not in the parks but on the sidewalk instead. We thought, 'Do we hire Hawaii Protective Association to patrol in Chinatown? What can they do if they see people lying on the sidewalk?' Maybe police can deputize these folks so they can take legal action," shares Caldwell.
More sit-lie laws could also be on the way. "Are there other ways to prevent people from being on the streets after a certain hour? That would deal with people lying around in doorways, sidewalks, and edges of parks," he says, of the ideas he's considering - careful to mention he knows the American Civil Liberties Union is always watching.
Lots of ideas, and no easy answers- but Mayor Caldwell says he's going to keep trying.