Many of Hawaii housing projectís residents back mandatory curfew
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
Dozens of Kalihi Valley Homes residents last night overwhelmingly supported a curfew instituted last week following an escalation of violence at the public housing complex.
Nearly 100 residents crowded into the Kalihi Valley Homes Community Hall to attend an informational briefing by the state House Human Services and Housing committees. The briefing also allowed elected officials to hear from residents and others regarding the curfew that began Thursday.
The event was hosted by Rep. John Mizuno, D-30th, (Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Fort Shafter), chairman of the Human Services committee, and Rep. Rida Cabanilla, D-42nd (Waipahu, Honouliuli, 'Ewa), chairwoman of the Housing Committee.
No residents spoke against the curfew, which requires them to be in their homes from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The curfew is meant to be a temporary solution to a longstanding problem of violence between some residents of KVH and nearby Kūhiō Park Terrace, another state housing complex.
But if some KVH residents had their way, the curfew would be permanent.
Moana Hampton, a 25-year resident of Kalihi Valley Homes, told the elected officials that she feels safer at night with the curfew in place.
"It's just temporary, but you can hear a pin drop in the night," Hampton said. "Usually, I'm scared to even walk out because of the hoodlums and their booze and you name it. It's like you're in prison."
Robert Manning, who has lived there for 20 years, agreed and supported a permanent curfew.
"We've been living in bondage for the past 20 years. The gangs, they keep us in our apartments worse than this curfew," Manning said. "Everybody here wants this curfew. Only someone who has something to hide doesn't."
Denise Wise, executive director of the housing authority, said after last night's meeting that she wasn't surprised at the residents' response to the curfew. She said she spent many hours late Friday and Saturday talking to residents who favored the curfew.
Wise said she believes state law allows the curfew to be in place for 120 days. She said she will work with residents to see what can be done to keep the area peaceful. She said the key will be to get residents and leaders of both housing projects together to work out a plan.
"This curfew is not the answer. It is not meant to be the answer," Wise said. "It is meant to have some calming. It is meant so that people can come home and feel safe. That is its intention. But it is not the answer. The answer will come from our community. We have to work together."
She said a plan to implement a similar curfew at Kūhiō Park Terrace this week is still under consideration.
Since Thursday, there have been no reports of gang violence or other major crimes at the project. Police Maj. William Chur, commander of the Kalihi substation, credited the curfew and increased police presence for keeping things calm.
But Chur said police resources are limited and everyone needs to work together to keep things under control. He called for the state to play a bigger role by assigning its public safety officers to KVH because violence can break out at any time.
"These people, they have long memories, and they're in no rush," Chur said of those involved in the recent troubles. "We will definitely keep our presence high in this area."
The only opposition to the curfew came from the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i. ACLU lawyer Daniel Gluck told the crowd that the state can implement a limited curfew in times of emergency, such as a hurricane or flood, but not in a situation where just a few people are causing problems.
"Essentially you have a dozen, two dozen individuals, several of whom have already been arrested, and because of them you now have hundreds and hundreds of law-abiding residents here who are now effectively under house arrest," Gluck said.
'IT'S BEEN QUIET'
Mizuno said the state attorney general's office is looking into the legality of the curfew.
But most of the residents last night disagreed with Gluck and said the restrictions are needed.
Nikki Shoaf, a member of the residents' security patrol, said she also hoped the Hawai'i Public Housing Authority would make the curfew permanent.
"To you sir, we live here, we have children, and it's been quiet since this curfew's been going on," Shoaf said to Gluck. "We're not in prison. We're residents here."
After the meeting, Mizuno asked that representatives from KPT and KVH start mediation talks within the next two weeks to come up with solutions to the problems.