Outage hits crime cameras
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
By Mary Vorsino
Nearly half of the 26 surveillance cameras used to fight crime in Chinatown stopped working about two weeks ago, forcing police to expand patrols in the community.
Crews were able to get six of those cameras working yesterday afternoon, but another six are still not transmitting images.
Officials could not specify why the security cameras went down, but the Honolulu Police Department's Maj. Randy Macadangdang said 10 of the cameras went black in late July, when a city contractor was working to upgrade lighting on King and River streets.
The cameras are mounted on utility poles from River to Bethel streets and from South King to Hotel streets. Sensormatic Hawai'i Inc. maintains the cameras and will do work next week to find out why the remaining six are still not working.
With the cameras down, police officers are covering more area in Chinatown, Macadangdang said. "My job is to get these cameras fixed as soon as possible," he said. "It's our eyes when we cannot be there."
The cameras were installed in 1998. From 2000 to 2005, the system was plagued with problems and most of the cameras were not reliable. But last year, Sensormatic revamped the system. Since then, an average of about two cameras have been down at any one time, the city and police said.
Lynne Matusow, vice chairwoman of the Downtown Ho-nolulu Neighborhood Board, said that she hopes the latest camera outage does not start a trend.
At every board meeting, Matusow asks attending Chinatown police officers how many cameras are down and how many are running. She said yesterday that she had not heard of so many cameras down at once since before the system overhaul.
Karl Rhoads, also a member of the neighborhood board, said the cameras have helped deter crime in Chinatown and give people a sense of security.
"I'm concerned that they're out again," he said. "The police do use them ... and they do allow them to cover a lot of ground that they couldn't cover in person."
Rhoads, who is running for a state House seat and also has been a member of the Chinatown citizens' patrol for a decade, said yesterday that he hopes the problem isn't a "return to the bad old days" when a majority of cameras were almost always down.
Macadangdang said he's looking for volunteers to watch surveillance footage from the cameras. A police officer is assigned to watch the cameras, he said, but the city currently has no residents assigned to the task despite years of pleas for volunteers.
In the past, some have complained about the difficult application process for those interested in manning the cameras. But officials have said the screening is necessary to weed out criminals who want to watch the videos for their own purposes.
Volunteers must go through training, undergo a criminal history check and be screened thoroughly to ensure they are not undertaking the task for dubious reasons.
Those interested in monitoring the cameras can call Macadangdang at 529-3386.
Reach Mary Vorsino at email@example.com.