Sunday, March 4, 2001
home page local news opinion business island life sports
AP National & International News
Traffic Hotspots
School Calendar
E-The People
Email Lawmakers
Classified Ads
Restaurant Guide
Business Directory

Posted on: Sunday, March 4, 2001

Isle volunteers join those trying to keep area safe

Does extra security protect paradise?
Many tourists choose a hotel for its safety

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

A slender Japanese woman, new to the Kalakaua Avenue street scene, banged out Japanese pop tunes into the Waikiki night from a black Yamaha six-string. The Calypso tinkle of a kettle drum from another street performer 50 yards away weaved in and out of boisterous conversations in Japanese and English. The Waikiki Trolley lurched and lumbered up Kalakaua.

Among all the noise, people and traffic, the blue-and-gold T-shirts of the Aloha Patrol stood out.

The men and women who push pamphlets into the hands of tourists didn’t even bother to offer when the patrol walked past. A prostitute with blow-dried auburn hair, see-through platform shoes and stretch blouse tied in a knot behind her back changed directions when she saw the patrol.

"If we just stand here and hang around for a while, eventually they just leave," said Geoff Graf.

By day, Graf is the assistant general manager of the Outrigger Reef hotel on Kalia Road. Once a month he tugs on his Aloha Patrol T-shirt and takes a shift walking up and down Kalakaua and Kuhio avenues for four hours.

The Aloha Patrol has no more police powers than the average citizen. Neither do the members of the resident-oriented Waikiki Citizens Patrol, the Tourist Crime Prevention volunteers, who focus on Japanese tourists, or the private security guards hired by Waikiki hotels.

Each group comes out at different times of the week and breaks into clusters of two to 20 people. Between them all, the groups claim hundreds of volunteers, including senior citizen retirees, snowbirds from the Mainland, members of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board and lots of folks who work in Waikiki’s tourism industry.

Doris Kiyabu, a Kaneohe retiree, makes the drive into town several times a month. It gives her a chance to help people, she said, and visit a part of town that a lot of Hawaii residents never see.

Protecting the community

Mary Ann Madrano, a 31-year-old Outrigger housekeeper with the face of a teenager, uses her day off to join the Aloha Patrol. It means leaving her 9-month-old son, Justin, with her husband in Waipahu and driving to Waikiki, where she sometimes walks until 11 p.m.

"I just want to protect our community," Madrano said.

They don’t break up fights. And they have no authority to chase away the peddlers in front of the International Market Place selling bogus marijuana, known as "bunk" on the street. But police believe the volunteer groups let the prostitutes, vandals and scam artists know that the cops have plenty of extra eyes and ears on the neighborhood’s noisy, busy sidewalks.

"They’ve really helped, and we appreciate it," said Lt. David Eber, 37, who has worked in Waikiki as a detective, sergeant and lieutenant for nine of his 15 years with the Honolulu Police Department.

The Aloha Patrol covers the makai side of Kuhio Avenue and overlaps with the Tourist Crime Prevention group; The Waikiki Citizens Patrol walks the mauka side of Kuhio, where residents live.

The Aloha Patrol and Tourist Crime Prevention volunteers play the role of tour guide, pointing out beaches and hotels to tourists. And they keep track of the street performers and vendors on Kalakaua who offer haku lei, jewelry, temporary tattoos and landscapes made out of spray paint.

So far, the police have had little luck moving the vendors off the city’s portion of the sidewalks because they appear to be merely accepting donations, not soliciting sales, which would be illegal.

On the mauka side of Kuhio, the Waikiki Citizens Patrol spends much of its time taking notes on everything from drug deals to broken sidewalks to burned-out streetlights for city and state agencies.

It’s not exactly crime fighting, but it is important, said Jamie Hercules, a 26-year-old former nightclub manager with slicked-back brown hair and a bodybuilder’s physique.

As he walked past the darkened Food Pantry parking lot, Hercules worried about the absence of lights.

"I don’t want to see cars getting broken into," he said, "or some tourist getting jumped while walking through to some nightclub."

'Good for Waikiki'

Lori Jenkins, the owner of Maui Waui Toasted Subs on Kuhio, yelled out to the 19 volunteers of the Waikiki Citizens Patrol as they walked by her shop recently.

"I appreciate them coming around and watching out for everyone on the streets," she said. "It’s good for Waikiki."

The following night, Jenkins needed the police; a former employee with a temporary restraining order against him came to the shop, acting belligerently.

Five officers arrived, tracked the man down a block away and arrested him. As Eber drove away, other officers were responding farther down Kuhio, where a 46-year-old woman was found dead in her apartment. There didn’t seem to be any reason to consider the case anything other than an "unattended death."

Then it was back to Kalakaua, where a police dispatcher said security guards were wrestling with a man who had pulled a knife on one of the regulars at Kuhio Beach.

As nearly every available uniformed officer in District 6 pulled up to Kalakaua, officer Randall Kalama found the 56-year-old suspect wandering down the beach. The man told Kalama he had thrown the knife into some bushes and was arrested for investigation of a felony charge of threatening with a weapon.

District 6, housed in the newly renovated Waikiki substation, has a major, captain, seven lieutenants and 95 officers. Another four detectives and two officers work burglary and theft cases out of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, along with a department Crime Reduction Unit.

With days off, split shifts and special assignments, the result means about 15 officers patrol Waikiki at any given time.

More prostitutes than police

There could be 25 to 30 prostitutes on the street in any night, some of the prostitutes said.

"There are a lot more hookers than policemen," Eber said. "We can’t put an officer on every one and follow them around all night."

One 40-year-old prostitute who has worked Waikiki since she was 18 appreciates the efforts to make Waikiki safer. A few years ago, the sidewalks were meaner and dirtier.

Her market is high-paying tourists. And the downturn in the Japanese economy means she needs to work harder if she wants to continue bringing in $1,000 to $1,200 each night.

So she passes out businesses cards that feature a photograph of her nude, sand-covered body. She even picks up her customers at the hotels and takes them back.

"It’s not as bad as it used to be," said the woman, who was wearing a low-cut, shocking orange dress and matching plastic orange high-heels.

"Waikiki has changed so much in just the last few years," she said. "They’ve really cleaned this place up."

[back to top]

Home | Local News | Opinion | Business | Island Life | Sports
Weather | Traffic Hotspots | Obituaries | School Calendar | Email Lawmakers
How to Subscribe | How to Advertise | Site Map | Terms of Service | Corrections

© COPYRIGHT 2001 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.