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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 2, 2010

Hawaii housing project curfew takes effect

By Mary Vorsino and Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writers

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Supervisor Junior Sua, left, and Sivia Thompson, a security guard, both with Millennium Security, checked in a visitor to Kalihi Valley Homes shortly before the 10 p.m. curfew. The curfew lasts until 6 a.m. each day.

NORMAN SHAPIRO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Over the objections of some tenants, a mandatory curfew went into effect at Kalihi Valley Homes last night in a bid to quell violence between feuding gangs.

A similar 10 p.m. curfew is set to start at Kūhiō Park Terrace next week.

Police said there have been no major problems at the two public housing projects since Monday, when a shooting at KVH injured two men, one seriously.

"It's been pretty quiet," said police Maj. William Chur, of the Kalihi station.

As the 10 p.m. curfew approached last night, a steady stream of residents drove past the main guard shack and into the housing complex. A handful of cars came into the visitor's gate to drop off tenants.

At 9:55 p.m., a security guard locked a chain-link pedestrian gate off Kamehameha IV Road, leaving open just the main and back entrances. But Honolulu police and private security officers were posted at each gate.

There were very few people walking about the housing complex, but a steady rain and gusty winds may have kept residents indoors.

Sivia Thompson, a guard with the private Millennium Security firm, manned the main gate and said there has been no trouble since Monday's incident. He said most residents seem to be aware of the new curfew and understand why it was put in place.

"They know it's better to take precautions," said Thompson, whose shift ended at midnight.

He said one of the only concerns he had was the city bus, which enters the main gate, drives through the project and exits the back gate on Likelike Highway. Thompson said the last bus comes through at 11 p.m. and there's no way of telling who might be on it.

"It's one of those Catch-22s," Thompson said. "We cannot stop the bus and check everybody on the bus."

The shooting on Monday was the latest in a string of violent confrontations in March between rival gang members at the two housing projects. Chur said that though things have quieted down, police are still hearing rumors that gang members will retaliate.

"I'm not saying we're out of the woods yet," said Chur, adding that increased police patrols of the area are continuing. "Things like this, they can simmer for a long time and then erupt all of a sudden."

The Hawai'i Public Housing Authority has said it took the drastic step of imposing a temporary curfew to tackle an urgent security threat.

There have been mixed reactions to the curfew from residents.

Some have said the curfew is too strict.

Others have supported it in hopes of making the projects safer.

Pat Kamalu, a longtime KVH resident, said that whether they support it or not, residents will follow the curfew. Kalihi Valley Homes was under a voluntary curfew starting Tuesday, and Kanalu said most people were indoors by 10 p.m.

"They're really trying to follow the rule," she said.

Kūhiō Park Terrace is not under the curfew yet because the HPHA is still addressing residents' concerns about the plan. Levaai Alualu, president of the KPT tenant association, said a curfew at KPT might do more harm than good.

"It's like calling a lockdown," she said. "It might cause more problems."

On Monday, the HPHA will hold a community meeting at KPT to talk about violence and the planned curfew. "We're going to work together," Alualu said.

Residents at KVH were notified of the curfew with letters posted to their doors. The letter says all residents including adults must be in their units by 10 p.m., though they are allowed to sit on their front lānais until midnight.

All guests must be gone by 10 p.m.

And people who work late have to register with security to be let in.

Some, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have questioned the legality of the curfew plan. ACLU staff attorney Laurie A. Temple urged HPHA yesterday to consider alternative security measures to protect housing residents.

"A more appropriate response to safety concerns would be to beef up the police and security presence or establish a voluntary curfew, as opposed to the extreme and potentially unconstitutional measure of instituting house arrest for all residents," Temple said in an e-mail to the Advertiser.

The state says it has consulted with the attorney general's office, and determined that it is within its right to mandate a temporary curfew to deal with an emergency security problem on its properties. The HPHA has also said similar curfews have been mandated at public housing projects on the Mainland.