Monday, October 1, 2001

State shores up security systems

The issue: State officials say that terrorist
attacks on New York and Washington
prompted them to bolster security
measures that were in place.

THE Sept. 11 terrorist attack on America did not send Hawaii officials scurrying to provide security where none existed. Instead, they say they shored up the security measures that were already in place. Their confidence that terrorists cannot easily make war on Hawaii is reassuring.

Ed Teixeira, the state's vice director of civil defense, says Hawaii has been preparing for a possible terrorist strike for more than two years. Without being specific -- for good reason -- he says protection of the state's infrastructure of transportation, water supply, electricity and other essential services is being increased. State agencies and public utilities have been working to lessen the state's vulnerability.

Officials downplay the potential of chemical or biological warfare through Hawaii's water supply, but they nevertheless have taken measures to protect reservoirs. Richard Spertzel, a microbiologist who led U.N. inspections teams in Iraq, calls threats to water supplies "mostly science fiction."

Hawaiian Electric has been security-conscious for many years, says company vice president Chuck Freedman, but has taken extra precautions in various ways since the East Coast attack. Likewise, Verizon has been "tightening what we already had in place" before the attacks, says spokeswoman Ann Nishida.

Perhaps the weakest security link not only in Hawaii but across the country has been at airports, where minimum-wage employees of low-bid companies hired by airline consortiums have been in charge of screening passengers. At President Bush's request, the nation's governors have called up the National Guard to bolster that security while the government prepares to oversee the security system if not take it over entirely.

"Right now, we're taking a look at strengthening our response at all levels of government and in many cases with the private sector," Teixeira told the Star-Bulletin's Diana Leone. "It's a challenge and I take it very seriously."

The public is asked to join in the effort by being observant and reporting suspicious behavior to law-enforcement authorities. Employees at utility companies and government offices are encouraged to report anything out of the ordinary.

Residents hostage to vicious dogs

The issue: The animals' owner has been
cited in three attacks in a
Pearl City neighborhood.

There are no bad dogs, the saying goes, only bad dog owners. This may well be the case, but the distinction may not matter to the three elderly men who were attacked recently in their Pearl City neighborhood.

Dogs with vicious tendencies must not be allowed to roam free and authorities should move swiftly to hold their owners responsible and to enforce the law before more people are hurt.

The dogs involved in the incidents belong to a man who lives in the neighborhood where the victims were attacked. Although the first took place more than three months ago, the two dogs continued to roam along the street unrestrained until they bit the second man. After that, the owner removed them, but still allowed a third animal to wander. Last week, a 71-year-old man, fearfully aware of the previous attacks, ran when that dog came at him. He fell, seriously injuring his arm.

The dog owner has been cited repeatedly, the last two times under a law that went into effect July 1 that imposes a fine of up to $2,000 and 30 days in jail. The cases have been referred to the city prosecutor's office, which says these criminal violations are taken seriously and are moved along as fast as possible. Although prosecutors surely have other priorities on their calenders, this case should not tarry in the court system. When a person repeatedly breaks the law in seeming disregard for his neighbors' safety, punishment ought to come quickly.

The Hawaiian Humane Society, which like the police is authorized to issue citations for dangerous and unleashed dogs, says incidents such as the ones in Pearl City aren't common. However, director Eve Holt advises people to call her agency or police when they do occur. Repeated violations will result in penalties that increase with each citation. Authorities may even remove a dog if it is deemed dangerous.

Dogs are generally human friendly, Holt says. The majority are affectionate animals who crave companionship. Only if mistreated or trained to be hostile do they become vicious.

Meanwhile, residents in the Pearl City neighborhood are afraid to leave their homes, even to check their mailboxes or take out the trash. No one should have to live under those conditions, not even a dog.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President and Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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