Big Isle to get anti-crime cameras


POSTED: Thursday, February 19, 2009

HILO » About 16 police video cameras will be permanently posted in downtown Hilo, and a similar number will be placed in Kailua-Kona using $500,000 granted by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, officials confirmed.

The new placement of cameras follows the successful posting of cameras in Pahoa village south of Hilo, which installed about 16 cameras in 2005 using federal anti-drug “;Weed and Seed”; money.

The latest state grant will also be used to “;enhance”; the Pahoa cameras and to place “;a couple”; at Akaka Falls State Park, said Sam Pulu'ole, director of the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association.

Before cameras went up in Pahoa, drug dealers would stand in the center of the main street of the village, offering drugs for sale. After the cameras, drug dealers, prostitutes and kids skipping school disappeared.

Downtown Hilo does not have a major crime problem, and part of the intent is to discourage more crime from coming, Pulu'ole said.

Crime can be something a simple as graffiti, he said. “;It's an abomination to your eyes,”; he said.

And appearance counts, since downtown depends in large measure on tourism, he said.

Hilo is a “;historical town”; since some of its buildings are nearly a century old, Pulu'ole said.

The county Department of Research and Development requested state funding for the cameras in April, he said.

Police Maj. Larry Weber said the department has written specifications for the cameras and related equipment. The project is expected to go out for bid next month, and installation of the equipment is expected in June, he said.

The exact number of cameras in each location is uncertain because no one knows how far the grant money will stretch, he said.

As in Pahoa, the Hilo, Kona and Akaka Falls cameras will not be monitored all the time, but recordings will provide evidence in case of a crime.

The Downtown Improvement Association will help with monitoring, Pulu'ole said, but he did not want to give details that might help criminals.