North Shore crime puts heat on police
By Will Hoover
Advertiser North Shore Writer
By Will Hoover
SUNSET BEACH Residents here have one main complaint about the local cops.
They wish they could see more of them.
Following a rash of complaints about rising crime in the area, Doug Cole, president of the Sunset Beach Community Association, recently called a meeting with area police officers.
"There have been a huge amount of home invasions, car break-ins and thefts from Waimea Bay to Velzyland," said resident Tracey Walker, one of more than two dozen concerned citizens who attended the meeting.
"It's a serious problem."
Cole said: "Basically, the biggest problem is police are completely undermanned out here. There are only four patrol officers from Ka'ena Point to Kahuku (a distance of about 20 miles)."
The number of officers covering that area is based on the resident population of around 18,000 people. But that, Cole said, is "not reflective of our everyday population."
The North Shore has become a popular year-round tourist destination for more than 2 million people, according to a 2004 Hawai'i Tourism Authority report.
On any given day, the North Shore's resident/visitor population is around 23,000, the state's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism reports. That number will increase significantly this weekend as fans of big surf flood the North Shore in anticipation of the 20- to 30-foot waves expected to hit the area tomorrow.
Cole said such a transient population poses a tempting target for thieves. Both visitors and residents are at risk, he said.
Walker and others say they don't fault the police, who are doing the best they can under the circumstances. Residents only want more of a police presence in the community.
After the meeting, Cole said the association would work with police to increase community awareness about the crime problem. But he said there's only so much residents can do.
"We're going to make an effort to set up a neighborhood-watch program and see if we can help out," he said. "The problem is, the crimes are occurring in the middle of the night when everyone's sleeping."
The shocker, he said, "is when people come out to their car in the morning and it's been ripped off, or it's not there."
Cole's dad, Peter, knows the feeling.
"My car was stolen right out of my driveway," Peter Cole said. "I came out in the morning to go with my dog, Max, to the post office and there was no car."
The 1995 Ford Taurus was found a short time later, but the insurance company deemed it a total loss because the cost to repair the extensive vandalism would be more than the car was worth, he said .
"We're getting more thefts now than ever before," said Cole, who has lived on the North Shore for nearly half a century. "They're what I call petty thefts they're breaking into cars, going into houses if they can, and they're taking a minimum amount of stuff to buy drugs."
He said the crimes are especially troubling because they seem to be a chronic, never-ending problem.
The North Shore falls under the jurisdiction of Honolulu Police Department District 2 in Wahiawa.
Statistics for District 2 burglaries, larcenies and auto thefts remained essentially the same throughout 2004 as they were in 2001 and were actually considerably lower last year than they were were in 2002. But no statistics for 2005 are available.
"Crime fluctuates throughout various areas on the island," said HPD District 2 Capt. Ed Nishi. "We as police managers make the necessary adjustments to address various problems.
"There are points of interest for tourists throughout the island," he said. "Every patrol district has its unique problems, but from one time to another there are tourists going through anywhere. The whole island is a tourist attraction."
He said that his officers are always willing to work with residents to set up neighborhood security watches and that the community can help police do a better job by being extra vigilant and more willing to meet in person with officers when reporting a crime.
Too often, citizens don't report crimes promptly or, if they do, the report is made anonymously, which means officers aren't able to interview and get details from the person making the report, said Nishi.
State Rep. Michael Magaoay, D-46th (Kahuku, North Shore, Schofield), who attended the Oct. 13 association meeting, said he agrees with residents that there needs to be a larger police presence.
"Four officers aren't enough to deal with an area that large with that much population," said Magaoay.
Magaoay said even a small satellite police station in the Sunset Beach area would be a deterrent to crime. He also suggested that concerned citizens might start an action patrol program in which volunteers hike or drive through residential areas at different times.
Doug Cole said the community is ready to consider practically any move to curb crime.
"We're going to see what we can do to get more eyes out there," he said.
"And to make the North Shore a little less user-friendly to the thief."
Reach Will Hoover at email@example.com.