Efforts fail to keep homeless out of viaduct
What is being done about the people living under the H-1 freeway, right after Middle Street, Ewa-bound? People have torn down the fence the state Department of Transportation put up to keep them out. I called police three times, but they're still there. Is anybody doing anything about this?
Answer: Both police and transportation officials are aware of the situation.
But "being homeless is not a crime," points out Capt. Frank Fujii, spokesman for the Honolulu Police Department. "That's really a social issue. All too often, we (HPD officers) get caught in the middle of that. ... It puts officers in a very uncomfortable situation." That said, it's another matter if criminal activity is involved.
"If DOT calls us and says, 'We've got a problem with (criminal violations),' we will go in there with them," Fujii said.
But the word has to come from the Department of Transportation, which owns the property, or from the public -- witnesses willing to say they saw illegal activity, he said. "We will go in to address criminality."
For its part, the Transportation Department has made several attempts to relocate the homeless from beneath the H-1 viaduct, and to repair the chain-link fence that was installed in 2003, said spokesman Scott Ishikawa.
"With each attempt, they have quickly migrated back and cut through the fence using wire cutters," he said. "We installed the original chain-link fencing and barbed wire in an attempt to keep the homeless out, but some of the more adamant ones apparently feel the fencing better protects them at night."
He said it's possible that more homeless are going there at night because they have are fewer options on where they can set up house than a year ago, when officials began rousting them from familiar spots.
Ishikawa said that after police busted copper thieves under the viaduct in March, the Transportation Department cleaned up copper wire insulation and other trash. Another cleanup was done in April, utilizing volunteers to help remove large appliances.
Since then, more appliances and other heavy items have been dumped. The department is considering another cleanup, Ishikawa said.
"For security reasons, there are certain sections underneath the viaduct that we do not send our department staff unless we have police escort," he added. "One of our employees had a gun pointed at him several years ago while he ventured in that area."
Q: Enterprise is charging me $3 per day "rent tax," in addition to the sales tax, etc., for my rental car. What is that? It wouldn't be a biggie for short term, but I am in week six so it's adding up.
A: You are referring to the "rental motor vehicle and tour vehicle surcharge tax," spelled out in Section 251-2 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.
The tax was $2 a day, but lawmakers specified that it be increased to $3 a day between Sept. 1, 1999, and Aug. 31, 2007. However, the tax is exempt for lessors who lease vehicles to people whose own vehicles are being repaired.
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