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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 9, 2010

Curfew can break cycle of violence

There's nothing wrong with a little enforced calm for a neighborhood reeling from a string of violent episodes.

A broad if temporary curfew has been set at Kalihi Valley Homes in the wake of clashes by warring gangs living there and at nearby Kūhiō Park Terrace. The new administration of the Hawai'i Public Housing Authority was decisive in imposing the restriction as a cooling-off period of a maximum of 120 days.

Residents need to sign in with the office if they have to leave the premises between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The residents at least those who turned up at a legislative briefing this week seem to like it. They're relieved to have a break from the violence.

At some point the novelty will wear off. That's why standing curfews for juveniles may be fairly common in communities across the country, but lockdowns for everyone are rare, and temporary.

That's what it should be here, as well. The police should take the breathing space as an opportunity to work with residents on better neighborhood-watch surveillance and improved communication with local patrol officers. That's the only policy that can work for the long term.

But the KVH experiment should be considered for KPT and other public-housing complexes as well. Restrictions can serve the interest of resident safety as well as that of the taxpayers, who invest heavily in subsidized housing and should benefit from strict "house rules" applied judiciously to keep order.

Civil libertarians rightly worry about such measures being carried too far, but proper oversight can avoid such excesses. Disruptive behavior can be more easily isolated and curbed, and for the majority of law-abiding KVH residents, there can be peace in the valley. That's a right worth defending, too.