Kahala residents are concerned about a spike in criminal activity at Wilson Community Park following a large fight there Oct. 17. Here, Tropic Gardens resident Jake Vaughan paints over graffiti at a basketball court.
Huge park brawl stirs watchdogs
A recent fight involving 80 people at Wilson Community Park has prompted Kahala residents to form a neighborhood watch and police to increase patrols to combat graffiti and alleged drug dealing and underage drinking in the area.
"That was, for me, the last straw," said Tropic Gardens resident Jake Vaughan, 30, who grew up in the neighborhood and has a front-row view of the park next to Wilson Elementary School.
The Oct. 17 brawl erupted at the park at about 3 p.m. and drew the response of six police officers who arrested at least two people, said Stan Fichtman, member of the Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board and an aide to City Councilman Charles Djou. Most teenagers were believed to be from Kaimuki and Kalani high schools, he said.
The scuffle led to a community meeting last Thursday scheduled by Djou's office to discuss "recent criminal gang activities," including reports from residents that drug deals regularly happen at the park in the middle of the day.
It is unclear what led to the confrontation, but Fichtman said it could have been a "drug deal that had gone bad" or gang-related. According to witnesses, a truck dropped off several kids at the park before the fight, he said, and some claimed teens carried weapons like knifes and that a person riding in a car flashed a handgun.
Following the incident, Vaughan gave the city, the neighborhood board, the Honolulu Police Department and Wilson Elementary a petition signed by 100 residents asking them to help monitor and raise awareness of the problems.
Wilson Elementary School officials have said they can keep students safe on campus but that there is not much they can do once classes end, according to Vaughan.
HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu would not comment on the fight, saying yesterday that additional officers "would be posted for as long as necessary." Vaughan credited more officers patrolling the park in the afternoon for a lack of incidents since Oct. 17.
He is organizing a watch group of 10 households, whose residents will be in charge of alerting the police to any suspicious activity, maintain a log of incidents and provide monthly reports to the neighborhood board. There also are plans for quarterly cleanups of the park. On Saturday, volunteers using material purchased by Djou's office painted over graffiti on several light poles, the backboard of the basketball court and other park areas, Vaughan said.
"You would think that ... if there were illegal activity going on, they would do it in the shadow somewhere or at night, but they are doing it right in the middle of broad daylight, with kids everywhere and people picking up their students," he said. "The concern is, once the (police) presence leaves, that's where hopefully our efforts to paint over the graffiti and monitor it will deter them."