UH-Manoa moves too slowly in fighting campus crime
The University of Hawaii-Manoa's crime rate is far above most of 12 other universities cited by the state auditor.
MORE than half the students at the University of Hawaii feel unsafe at the Manoa campus, according to a recent survey
. University officials say they are trying to make the campus safer, but the measures taken are progressing at a snail's pace and fall far short of the sound recommendations made last month by State Auditor Marion Higa.
Although sexual crimes at Manoa have received much attention in recent years, nonviolent crimes such a burglaries raise UH crime statistics beyond a dozen other universities with similar enrollments, according to Higa's report. UH-Manoa reported a yearly crime rate of 5.45 per thousand students, while most of those colleges reported rates of less than half that.
Neal Sakamoto, UH-Manoa's chief of security, maintains that the campus crime rate is similar to other colleges in urban areas. However, that explanation doesn't compute. Second highest to UH in Higa's list, with a rate of 5.01, was the University of Virginia in the college town of Charlottesville, with a population of less than 40,000. At the lowest, with a 1.11 rate, was the University of Utah at Salt Lake City.
The distinction made by Higa is that UH-Manoa is the only university on her list at which campus security officers lack police powers to make arrests and carry weapons. A UH committee recommended two years ago that UH security officers be given such authority, but UH President David McCLain dropped his plan to present the idea to the Legislature after meeting resistance, according to Higa.
Sakamoto and UH interim Chancellor Denise Konan told the Star-Bulletin's Craig Gima the proposal to give officers firearms and arrest powers needs further study and might add costs and the need for training. Those burdens are justified if they result in a safer campus.
The UH-Manoa security force of 36 is too small. Last year's Legislature approved funds for eight more officers, but guard services that work independently from the UH security force need to be brought under its supervision. The private guards wear different uniforms and, in one instance, told a student asking for assistance to call campus security, Higa reported.
Higa's report says the plan to consolidate the guard services, including those for parking, athletics and libraries, is "a step in the right direction" but falls short of centralizing campus security. "Campus Security should be the only organization on campus that provides security services."
In November 2005, the interim chancellor and other campus leaders took an evening golf-cart ride around the campus and identified dark and dangerous areas. Only recently have projects to improve the lighting been approved, and they are not expected to be completed until 2009.