Honolulu Star-Bulletin Local News

Graffiti tags on a light pole on Hinaea Street are
evidence that the Waipahu neighborhood is gang turf.

Photo by George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin

Troubled streets

‘Long time no trouble, now no can trust,’ says one resident of a gang-besieged Waipahu neighborhood

By Debra Barayuga

One resident has repainted his hollow-tile wall countless times to erase the graffiti.

Another is reluctant to hang his laundry outside, fearing it'll be stolen.

And another neighbor was startled to see youths stoning a house and running boldly down his street with rifles.

Wrought iron fences with locked gates and "Beware of Dog" notices displayed prominently in carports are a sign of the times in this Waipahu neighborhood below the H-1 freeway, where residents have been besieged by gang-related activity in recent years.

The neighborhood, centered on Hina and Hoomakoa streets, is part of what police call Beat 329, which extends from Ka Uka Boulevard in Waipio, down toward Waikele and the Pearl Harbor West Loch peninsula, and sweeps west, ending at Waipahu Depot Road.

Last year, Beat 329 was the busiest in the number of major crimes reported - murder, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft - compared with the seven other beats in the district.

The streets are relatively quiet during the day - the silence interrupted occasionally by a dog barking at strangers or the drone of cars on the freeway above. At night, it's a different story.

"On weekends, yikes," said Sgt. Danny Ford, who has patrolled the area for the past six to seven months. By far, "This is the worse for me," Ford said.

Recently, police have been called to shootings and affrays involving rival youth gangs whose members live in the neighborhood. Bad Boy Ilocano. Pinoys. Occasionally, the Young Terrible Kids from lower Paiwa. "That's why, hard," said Ford, who tries to patrol the neighborhood at least two or three times during his evening watch.

Influx of drugs

Annette Tomas holds daughter Tiana Marie and said she hopes the trouble on Hina Street doesn't affect her home.
Photo by George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin

"Long time no trouble," remembers one 20-year resident who raised four children at his Hina Street home. "Now, no can trust." He can't hang clothes on the line without worrying if they'll still be there when he returns, he said.

He said an influx of drugs and renters has changed the neighborhood. He knows most of his neighbors and they look out for each other. But outsiders who move in often cause problems, he said, declining to give his name for fear of being targeted.

Throughout the neighborhood, tires stored in someone's carport, fighting cocks in a neighbor's coop, batteries from cars parked on the street have disappeared, even in broad daylight.

Gang members from other areas who visit friends clash with rival gang members who live in the neighborhood.

Utility poles and hollow-tile walls bear the brunt of gang activity. Homeowners hastily paint over what they can to temporarily block the ugly messages, but the vandals return with a vengeance. One 35-year-old resident has lost count of how many times and colors his neighbor across the street has repainted his corner wall because of the never-ending graffiti.

Youths with guns

One resident who moved in from Tropicana West off Waipahu Street - another tough neighborhood - thought he'd left behind some of the problems that plagued his old stomping grounds. "I've lived Waipahu all my life, I figured everything here would be pretty mellow - I guess not," he said.

When he moved in a year ago, he watched one night as a group of youths picked up a large boulder and threw it onto a car parked in front of a nearby home.

The car was believed to belong to a rival gang member. Then they began stoning the home, he said. And he was taken aback to see youths running down the street with rifles.

About three weeks ago, he saw a youth being chased down the street by another youth and heard the familiar "pah, pah, pah," of gunshots ring through the neighborhood.

Two youths were injured in the shooting, which allegedly stemmed from a confrontation between the Young Terrible Kids and Pinoys.

A few hours earlier, police had responded to a drive-by purse snatching at Waikele Center involving a stolen Honda. Police believe gang members from the neighborhood may have been involved. Officers responding to the purse snatching spotted the stolen car, abandoned in the middle of a Hina Street intersection.

Police suspect gang members because of the way the car was broken into and the way it was abandoned - its hood up and engine running. "You know they were laughing at us," Ford said.

John Mintern, Hina Street resident and Waipahu High School graduate, hopes to buy a home nearby.
Photo by George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin

Back and forth

The Japanese visitor whose purse was snatched was dragged nearly 20 feet when she became entangled in the strap of her purse.

She was hospitalized for multiple abrasions on both legs and arms.

Police have also responded to firebombs being tossed at homes where young gang members allegedly live.

"It's a back and forth thing," Ford said. One gang will firebomb a house.

The next week, the rival gang will retaliate and a fight breaks out. Then a drive-by shooting follows.

"It's pretty bad," Ford said.

Families whose homes are targeted often deny their children are involved with gangs.

But often, they're working two or three jobs and don't know what their children are up to, Ford said. "These parents work hard, but how can you actually supervise a child when you're never home?"

Much of the property crime - car break-ins, auto thefts, criminal property damage and vandalism can be attributed to these youth gangs, police said.

‘You gotta be careful’

Annette Tomas, who's lived in the neighborhood for five years, said curfew laws should be more strictly enforced to keep youths off the street and out of trouble.

Many youths these days have no respect for their elders or for authority, said John Mintern, a Pearl Harbor policeman who's lived in the neighborhood for at least 13 years.

"Ten years ago, if someone ordered you to stop, you stopped. Now if you go up to a teen-ager and tell them 'stop,' you better be ready to fight," he said. "It's really changed - you gotta be careful."

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