After recent vandalism in city park restrooms, Mayor Kirk Caldwell plans toinstall more high-tech security cameras like the one at Hans L’ Orange Park in Waipahu.
The cameras will be activated when parks are closed. If someone enters a parkbathroom after hours, the camera, sensing motion, will take the person’s picture and then issue a loudelectronic verbal warning to tell the personto get out of the park.
Caldwell says,“The camera can’t catch a violator but at least it gives the person something to think about when they know their picture has been taken.The camera’s pictures provide a record of who was in a park when the park was closed.”
He says this type of camera has reduced vandalism at Hans L’ Orange Park.
“The bright light of the camera startles people,” he says.
The latest park comfort station to be torched on Oahu was atKeehi Lagoon Park.It happened just before midnight Tuesday.
Vandals smashed all the toilets and the sinks at the comfort station and then set the building on fire. Flames reached the comfort station’s roof before the fire could be extinguished.
The building is now cordoned off with yellow police tape and boarded up. The comfort station is normally used by many park-goers who walk over from Keehi Park’s tennis courts, children’splay equipment and the park’s baseball field.
Caldwell says he is dismayed.
“You travel to China and Japan and Europe and the mainland and you don’t see the kind of disrespect that people show for park facilities here,” he says.
“You travel to China and Japan and Europe and the mainland and you don’t see the kind of disrespect that people show for park facilities here.” — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell
Sometimes it seems like Oahu residents have gotten used to having their park bathrooms trashed.
Ashley Agmata of Kalihi was walking her dog Thursday at Keehi Park. She says, “I am not surprised the bathroom was burned. This is a big park. Not many people are here at night except for homeless people. People were probably in the bathroom doing drugs.”
Caldwell says his goal is to keep emphasizing how wrong it is to damage public parks and that such vandalism should never be expected or tolerated.
The mayor says he will find money to install the new cameras at three parks, including Keehi Lagoon, Ala Moana Beach Park and Kaiaka Bay Beach Park on the North Shore.
“All three are large parks where mischief can occur,” he says.
Kaiaka Park’s bathroom facilities have been destroyed repeatedly by a person investigators say is an arsonist.
Investigators suspect the person burned down the comfort station at Kaiaka Park on Jan. 18, 2014.
After four portabletoilets were brought to use until a new comfort station could be built,the portable toilets were burned Feb. 22.
And then when two more portable toilets were brought in to replace the burned toilets, one of them was destroyed by fire March 3.
The mayor is also looking at the new cameras for the comfort station at Magic Island in Ala Moana Park to try to prevent another incident of destruction there.
Sometime on the night of Jan. 15, vandals lifted a toilet off its foundation in the newly renovated women’s restroom at Magic Island and smashed it to pieces and also damaged the toilet paper holder and one of the doors to a bathroom stall.
Since then, the city has installed brightLED lights around the perimeter of the Magic Island bathroom to discourage vandalism and other criminal acts.
The mayor says each newsecurity camera to be placed atKeehi, Kaiaka and Ala Moana parks will cost about $4,700.
To prevent the cameras from being vandalized themselves, they will be placed on high poles out of a person’s reach.
Caldwell wants to try the cameras at the three parks before purchasing more for comfort stations at other parks.
He has also requested money to hire seven park rangers to patrol Ala Moana Beach Park at all times. He’s also considering paying for private security personnel at some parks.
He says he has talked to the Honolulu Police Department about the feasibility of forming a new kind of park security force using vehicles like those used for parking patrols.
Park guardians could be deputized and assigned to patrol parks to look for violators, calling police when necessary.
The mayor’s information officer, Andrew Pereira, says park vandalism in 2015 cost taxpayers $140,000 and this year the bill for parkvandalism is already up to $100, 419.
Caldwell says, “I get upset. But I am not going to give up. I will keep trying different things to try to help keep people from trashing our parks.”
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Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.