Crackdown awaits holiday parties
More police will patrol Ala Moana Beach Park on the Fourth of July
As many as 130 police officers will roam Ala Moana Beach Park on Independence Day to lower the boom on revelers who plan to drink and light fireworks in public areas.
Police said an increase in the number of drunken brawls and burn victims during last year's Fourth of July celebrations at the park is responsible for the planned crackdown.
"It became such a danger for even the officers to enforce the laws because people were throwing fireworks and bottle rockets at them," Sgt. William Axt of the Honolulu Police Department said yesterday during a news conference at Magic Island.
As many as 50,000 people are expected to gather at the park to watch the 15th annual professional fireworks show.
Last year, "it looked like a firework display in the middle of the park instead of the professional one out over the water," Axt said.
Police said no officers were seriously injured last year, and there was no one incident that prompted the clampdown on lawbreakers this year. Police also are reminding residents that breaking the law could be costly:
» Juveniles and adults convicted of using fireworks in a public area could face jail time or as much as a $2,000 fine.
» Legal-age adults convicted of consuming alcohol in a public area or giving it to someone who is underage could face jail time or as much as a $1,000 fine.
» Adults between the ages of 18 and 21 who are convicted of purchasing, possessing or drinking liquor could be charged with a petty misdemeanor.
» Children under age 18 are subject to the jurisdiction of Family Court.
Police said laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol and popping of fireworks in public areas have existed for years. But police have not had the manpower to enforce all of the laws in past years.
Some residents already are not pleased with the planned crackdown.
Ben Kahalepo, who has made it a tradition to spend his Fourth of July on Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park, thinks enforcing the park rules is impractical and will not change the public's behavior.
"People are still going to do it, they'll just be a (little) more discreet. ... The police can't stop it. There's too much. What are they going to do, go tent by tent?" Kahalepo said with a laugh.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2002
Police are cracking down this year on those who light fireworks in public areas. Here, children light up their own fireworks show following the formal Fourth of July fireworks show off Magic Island.
Kahalepo's friend Steve Brooks, who spends much of his day at the park, said, "Why don't they enforce all of the other laws, like feeding the birds or bringing pets in here? It's either all or nothing. They can't just pick on one law or one day. That's being prejudiced."
But Axt said his department is concerned about safety.
"We are not targeting anyone. ... We are not able to enforce everything we should be able to. However, our first concern is safety, and we've done a pretty good job of that so far," he said.
Axt said police will not significantly increase the amount of officers on duty on Independence Day. He said 100 to 130 uniformed and plainclothes officers will patrol Ala Moana Beach Park starting Monday.
Normally, the park is closed from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. However, police said the city has made an exception to the law, and Oahu residents camping overnight on July 3 will not be cited.