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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Thefts anger Niu Valley residents

 •  Chart: Niu Valley property crime

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

Crime is up in Niu Valley, but that's not all that has residents fearful.

The boldness of the crimes and an increase in the number of outsiders walking their streets has heightened feelings of vulnerability in this quiet East Honolulu neighborhood of about 500 homes.

The situation is so severe, residents say, that homes are burglarized while people are out walking their dogs and when they're in their homes.

"It's gotten out of control," said Brownie Williams, the community's neighborhood watch security chairwoman.

Last week, about 70 residents took their complaints to the Kuliou'ou/Kalani Iki Neighborhood Board. More than double that number gathered again last night to discuss ways to fight back, from beefing up its 17-year-old neighborhood security watch system to forming some kind of volunteer patrol, hiring professional guards and maybe even questioning nonresidents.

"It's important for us to know each other and to get to know who belongs in our neighborhood and who doesn't," said Eric Seitz, a Niu Valley resident and civil rights attorney. "These burglaries and car thefts are occurring in the daytime and even when people are at home. They're very bold and walk away casually."

Property crimes in Niu Valley rose by nearly 25 percent in July over the same month a year ago, 16 compared with 13. For the year, police statistics show a nearly 11 percent increase in property crimes, 84 this year through July compared with 76 for the same period a year ago.

Residents agreed that they need to have a meeting to revive the neighborhood watch program and then have another community meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 23 at Niu Valley Intermediate School's library.

Chris Benjamin has been a victim twice in six months. His car was stolen in March, and his house was burglarized Sept. 2.

He expressed frustration Thursday that the community can only do so much without becoming vigilantes.

"We can't do this by ourselves," Benjamin said. "We need the police's help."

Police say they're aware of the situation. They say they have been assigning special manpower to keep watch over two homes in the neighborhood where drug deals are believed to be going on.

"I share in your concerns," Honolulu police Sgt. Gerald Reese said at last week's neighborhood board meeting. "I have a handful of officers and a large area to cover. All I can tell you is we're doing our best. Bond together. We're trying to do everything we can."

City Councilman Charles Djou, who attended last night's meeting, vowed to get a police representative at the group's next meeting, to talk to the police chief about stepping up patrols and in the long term, to work with the state to strengthen drug laws.

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com or 395-0464.

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