CLEAN crew sweeps through Chinatown
By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer
Knots of volunteers combed the streets of Chinatown yesterday armed with paintbrushes and trash bags.
Their mission was to instill a sense of pride in a community beleaguered by drugs and crime and still trying to recover after media coverage of a blogger's video showing rats jumping among the fruit at one of the area's popular markets.
"We want to be able to work without fear of drugs and gambling," said Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, president of the Chinatown Business and Community Association. "This builds morale by showing that people care."
Chinatown hasn't had the best publicity lately, Shubert-Kwock said, but with the efforts of police, the community and the merchants, there's hope for a turnaround.
Yesterday was the Honolulu Police Department's second project under its CLEAN — Community Lokahi to Enrich our Aina Now — initiative. The first was in Waipahu. Another is planned for the country later in the year, said HPD Deputy Chief Randy Macadangdang.
For two hours yesterday, more than 200 volunteers from the police department, Honolulu prosecutor's office, churches, and social and business groups fanned out from A'ala Park to Fort Street Mall to Beretania Street to Nimitz Highway painting out graffiti and picking up trash.
Merchants and residents have been making a concerted effort in the past couple of months to make changes in Chinatown by removing mountains of rubbish left behind by vendors and by putting up signs and placing cameras in key locations to discourage crime.
Kekaulike Mall, where the video of rats was taken outside a storefront window, was made into a park recently and was the first to receive attention from a group calling itself The Friends of Chinatown, which shares the goals of Project CLEAN.
"It brings together everyone to keep the community clean and safe ," Macadangdang said. "The thing is there's no magic wand. You need people to come together and help us, not just one time, but all the time to continue the cleanup."
Sherolyn Brooks-Jordan, an Evansville, Ind., resident who was in town visiting her daughter, stood in the hot sun painting a parking lot wall filled with graffiti.
"It's a good feeling to help out," Brooks-Jordan said. "I do this back home at Evansville. I'm helping give the community a sense of pride."
Cindy Adams, a member of the Hawai'i Meth Project, a nonprofit group that works to keep kids from trying methamphetamines, worked in a small group painting out graffiti on a green door. She painted with two shy teens and their police officer father.
"We're helping the community to make it less of a haven for drug and crime," Adams said. "We're hoping that by eliminating graffiti , people will have a sense of pride and maybe others will be less likely to do drugs or retag and take ownership instead."