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Walkers watch for crime


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POSTED: Monday, April 20, 2009

Along River Street on Tuesday night, Dolores Mollring pointed to a group of men standing around a concrete table, some with their hands in jacket pockets.

“;They're gambling,”; she said. “;They hide the cards when we walk by.”;

Mollring waved to the men as she and the other members of the Downtown Chinatown Citizens Patrol walked by.

               

     

 

Meeting

       

        An informational meeting on community policing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at the Beretania Neighborhood Park multipurpose room. For more information about citizens patrols, contact Honolulu police Sgt. Richard Fikani at 590-1710.
       

Other patrols

       

        The Downtown Chinatown Citizens Patrol is not meeting this week because of a board meeting at Kukui Plaza and will walk again next week Tuesday at 8 p.m. Three other citizens patrols walk through Chinatown each week. They are:
       

» Kukui Gardens: Wednesdays at 6 p.m.

       

» River Pauahi Apartments: Fridays at 6:30 p.m.

       

» Keola Hoonanea: Four times a week on various days

       

For more than 13 years, the volunteers have been walking the streets of Chinatown Tuesday nights at 8 p.m.—patrolling to let criminals know they are being watched.

“;We're standing together against neighborhood decay,”; Mollring said.

A few weeks earlier, River Street would have been crowded with men and women buying and selling drugs, Mollring said.

Tuesday night, the area was mostly empty, with more cops than potential drug dealers.

Police cars were parked on Pauahi Street, near the spot where Joseph Peneueta was shot to death March 28 in an alleged turf battle between rival drug gangs. A stabbing and assault on April 3, allegedly in retaliation for Peneueta's death, heightened community concerns and led to a tripling of police in the area.

“;These are some of the bullet holes,”; Mollring said, pointing to shattered Plexiglas in front of the River-Pauahi Apartments.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann has said community policing efforts like the Downtown Chinatown Citizens Patrol are key to fighting crime in the area.

“;The people of Chinatown will be the city's eyes and ears,”; Hannemann said earlier this month. “;It is their neighborhood.”;

Honolulu police acting Sgt. Richard Fikani, who is in charge of community policing in Chinatown, said he is talking with building associations and the Chinatown merchants association and other community groups to set up more neighborhood watch groups in the wake of the recent Chinatown violence.

There are four citizens patrols in the Chinatown area. Two started in the last year as drug dealing and prostitution started to become more of a problem, Fikani said.

“;We (police) are part of the solution, but we're not the whole solution,”; he said.

The crime patrols and other community policing efforts bring neighbors together to watch out for each other and open up communication between residents and police. “;It's so they feel empowered, so they have a say in what's going on in their community,”; Fikani said.

Halfway through the walk, the volunteers stopped at the Chinatown police substation to check in.

“;It's very quiet tonight,”; Mollring said.

“;That's the way we like it,”; an officer replied.

On a normal night, the volunteers will see two to four officers during their walk, Mollring said. Tuesday night, about a dozen police officers, including three solo bike officers on loud Harley-Davidson motorcycles cruised the streets with blue lights on.

The volunteers have seen crime ebb and flow in their neighborhood over the years.

The fatal shooting in a prostitution-related case on Kukui Street in 2006 also led to a police crackdown and calls for more community involvement. The problem went away for a while, but came back. That shooting remains unsolved.

Mollring said the volunteers will wave and say “;hello”; to suspected drug dealers. It's a friendly message, she said, that the neighborhood is aware of what they are doing. “;We're always watching,”; she said. “;We're not just sitting in our houses. ... We're out here too, every Tuesday. They (criminals) haven't scared us away and they won't.”;

Mollring and the other volunteers said they know police won't be able to keep up the stepped up patrols and expect the drug dealers will return.

“;They'll come creeping back,”; she said. “;There's a need and when there's a need, it has to be fulfilled.”;

The citizens patrol walk ended about 9 p.m., where it began, at Kukui Plaza, and the volunteers went home.

Just around the corner, four women, apparently prostitutes dressed in short, tight fluorescent skirts and tight-fitting blouses began walking along Kukui Street looking for customers.