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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 5, 2004

Security cameras under repair

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Officer Bobby Eleccion monitors the closed-circuit camera operation from the police substation in Chinatown. The cameras, some of which do not work, are used to catch criminal activity on tape. A contract has been awarded to fix the system.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Police hope that all the crime-fighting surveillance cameras installed years ago in Chinatown and Waikiki will soon be up and running following the resolution of a contract dispute over the repair and maintenance of the operation.

Nearly 30 percent of the cameras either do not work or cannot be used to capacity.

Alvin Au, deputy director of the city Department of Facilities Maintenance, told the Mayor's Downtown/Chinatown Task Force last week that security company Sensormatic Hawai'i Inc. had been awarded the contract for the work, but another company filed a protest over the award that took several months to settle.

Sensormatic has since started work on a $30,000, one-year contract to fix and run the system, which includes 26 cameras in Chinatown and six in Waikiki. The company will begin by creating a detailed report on the operation.

The Chinatown cameras, at various sites in the area, are monitored at the police substation at North Hotel and Maunakea streets. The cameras are part of a closed-circuit camera operation that is used to monitor criminal activity.

Eight of the Chinatown cameras don't work at all and several others have limited use because they cannot tilt, pan or zoom. Only one of the Waikiki cameras is out of order, according to police.

HPD Maj. Michael Tucker, the District 1 commander, said the cameras have been effective in the arrest and conviction of several drug dealers and used for collecting evidence in other cases and he looks forward to them becoming fully operational again.

"We do still catch people with the cameras we can manipulate," Tucker said. "We do arrest people. It also allows the officers assigned to monitor the cameras to make a real quick check of the area to see any developing problems like people gathering for a fight."

More than five years ago the city spent $400,000 to install the first 14 closed-circuit cameras on the streets of Chinatown, which were touted as a great tool to make arrests, catch criminal activity on tape and use it for evidence in court. Twelve more cameras were later added along King Street at a cost of about $3,000 each.

The cameras are mounted on utility poles, and a camera operator watching a video monitor at a police substation can zoom in and out, rotate a camera 360 degrees and even look straight down — when they are working.

Problems with the Chinatown cameras began in May 2000 when police moved their substation from South Hotel and Nu'uanu Avenue to its new location. The company that had provided the maintenance contract for the cameras declared the agreement void because their company was not used to move and reinstall the cameras at the new location, police said. Thus the city was left without the expertise to maintain the system and it soon became unreliable.

The city Department of Design and Construction took over the maintenance operation last year until a new contract could be awarded, according to city spokeswoman Carol Costa.

Tucker said with the pending repairs to the system, he is reviving the system of volunteers to monitor the camera and free up police officers.

"Within the last six months we've been approached by several groups telling us they are ready to volunteer and it's just a matter of us doing some minor background checks and training them," Tucker said. "As soon as Sensormatic implements its repair program we are going to start training people.

"I'm crossing my fingers and hopefully it's not more than two months before we have volunteers in place and monitoring the cameras for us."

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.