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Tourism officials seek increased surveillance


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POSTED: Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hawaii tourism officials plan to help in expanding surveillance cameras statewide to assist police and discourage criminal activity.

The Waikiki Business Improvement District Association, made up of commercial property owners, has been paying for a person to monitor six cameras along Kalakaua Avenue since 2001.

"It has been helpful in identifying activities that seem out of place," said association Executive Director Jan Yamane.

Yamane said she sees the cameras as a tool in crime prevention.

Surveillance cameras have been used in Chinatown for at least 10 years and along Kalakaua Boulevard since at least 2001.

The city and tourism officials have tentative plans to expand surveillance onto Kuhio Avenue, the street that runs parallel and mauka of Kalakaua Avenue, the main street through Waikiki.

One area being considered for camera surveillance coverage is the Kuhio Avenue area fronting the Waikiki Trade Center, said Gordon Bruce, director of the city Department of Information Technology.

"We've had a number of incidents in that area," he said.

Bruce said the exact location of the cameras has not been determined, and the city will be talking with various groups, including the neighborhood board and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Robert J. Finley, chairman of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board, said there has been criminal activity on Kuhio Avenue without eyewitnesses, including an assault on a man.

"He was just walking out of a bar ... and some guy sucker punched him," Finley said. "We'd like there to be consequences when you do something like that."

The Hawaii Tourism Authority plans to provide $175,000 for the Waikiki project, $500,000 for a similar project on the Big Island, and $400,000 to Maui County.

Association strategic planner Momi Akimseu said the funds are to be used to pay for the cameras and installation.

"We provide the vision for the program," she said. "It has to be a community effort."

She said each of the counties are developing their own plans.

Some Big Island areas that may have cameras include Akaka Falls, a volcano viewing area, and the Hilo Business District.

On Maui, the county is tentatively planning to develop a mobile camera system capable of conducting surveillance in areas where there is high criminal activity.