Manoa students wary after dark
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
University of Hawai'i-Mānoa students say they're taking more safety precautions, like not walking alone at night, in the wake of three instances of students being attacked or harassed just off campus in a three-week period.
Some also said they'd like to see more action from UH to address security, including improving lighting.
"Every year I've been here, there's been at least one assault," said UH-Mānoa senior Deanna "D" Kubota, 21. "They say it happens on every campus. But are we every campus?"
Kubota said large portions of the campus are poorly lit and she often worries about safety when walking at night.
"I've learned to live with it," she said.
Junior Trina Sagaysay, 20, said she's "a little" worried in the wake of the attacks, but is trying to be on the lookout for suspicious people and doesn't take unnecessary risks.
When she jogs, she said, "I try to do it during the day. I go to the library in the daytime."
UH-Mānoa security officials said the attacks are concerning, and they have urged students to walk in groups at night or call for security escorts.
"We wanted to send out an alert as a precaution," said Wayne Ogino, chief of security at UH, who added that the flagship campus in Mānoa remains overall a safe place, and stressed that students and parents shouldn't panic.
"This (violence) is unusual," he said.
In each incident, the perpetrators were described as a group of young men, though officials don't believe they are students and they can't say if the same men were involved in all three incidents.
All the confrontations, one of which resulted in a student being punched, were reportedly unprovoked.
Senior Remington Poulin, 21, said students are concerned — but not panicked — about the attacks.
He said he has tried to spread the word among his friends to be careful, and added that there is only so much UH security officers can do.
In recent years, UH has taken steps to improve security, including spending more than $1 million to improve lighting and beefing up Mānoa's security force. Ogino said some 40 closed-circuit cameras are also set to go on line in common areas across the campus before the end of the year.
The campus currently has about 20 closed-circuit cameras.
Ogino said other plans to beef up security are in the works, and that in the short term UH security officers have been urged to approach students who are walking alone at night to offer them an escort.
DOLE STREET ATTACK
UH-Mānoa also sent a security advisory to its 20,000 students on the incidents, and yesterday Ogino said students must use common-sense safety precautions, because officers aren't always in sight on the 320-acre campus.
He added that policing the campus is tough since it has so many points of entry.
"Our office regularly patrols, but they can't be everywhere," Ogino said. "There are so many ways in. That's why we need more people to be aware."
All three recent incidents happened just off campus.
The most serious occurred April 11 on Dole Street, when four students were crossing at the light at the edge of the campus about 5 a.m. Ogino said five men approached the students and started harassing them. At one point, the situation escalated and a male student was punched in the face and beaten.
He required "serious dental work," Ogino said.
Two other students suffered minor injuries.
On April 17 about 1 a.m., three female students said they were harassed by a group of men outside UH-Mānoa's Varsity gate, near the athletic complex. The group of four to five men, Ogino said, tried to block the women's entry onto campus. The women got the attention of some male students nearby, though, and the harassers dispersed quickly.
The first attack happened about 11 p.m. March 29, when Brycen Nakashima, 19, was skateboarding back to his dorm on Dole Street after parking his car. A man knocked him off his skateboard and two other men attacked him and took his backpack. Nakashima was able to get away without serious injury, but he said the episode left him rattled.
"I don't travel alone anymore," he said.