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StarBulletin.com

Grandmas on patrol


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POSTED: Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hoots of laughter ring out regularly across Waimanalo Beach Park from several women in bright yellow T-shirts and matching caps at a picnic table piled with snacks.

These aunties and grandmas are on patrol.

From their centrally located perch, shaded by tall trees, they make it their business to scrutinize the popular tourist spot and its two parking lots for three hours every Monday and Saturday. They have been doing it on their own for 12 years.

Most of the time they don't even get up from the table, but their powers of observation are their sharpest weapons.

“;We just watch them,”; said Margaret Pekelo, their ringleader since she chased down a couple of thieves 12 years ago. She also has a big bark and is not afraid to get in anyone's face.

“;They think I'm a stinker,”; she said about the kids who are up to no good, while laughing. “;I'm just taking care of my community. I love my community. When I see these kids—my own kind—I want to kick their butts. They're Hawaiian. It makes me look bad!”;

“;They say, 'Auntie, you Hawaiian. I'm Hawaiian.' I say, 'That don't cut no ice!' They say, 'But Auntie, I need the money.' I say, 'Go work and go support yourself,'”; said Pekelo.

The ladies, dubbed the Waimanalo Beach Patrol, were recently honored by City Council member Ikaika Anderson. The oldest is Lily China at 94; Katherine Asinsin, 66, cracks, “;I'm the baby.”;

Regulars include Loke Kahiapo, Grace Adviento, Jackie Malina and Annie Mokiao, as well as sisters Rose Mizukawa and Trudy Laa of Kailua. One of the few men to join them, Ed Kaanehe, died several months ago.

Asinsin said thieves are “;very tricky, very sly. You just gotta watch good, you know. They wait till the tourists go into the water and then they grab their stuff under the towel. I tell the tourists: Take your valuables and tie them around your neck when you go swimming.”;

Asinsin joined the patrol because “;I don't want the tourists to think we have a bad community, and I want to have a safe community for our children.”;

Pekelo acknowledged that most of them, who met at a senior citizen's club, are now too old to patrol on foot.

“;We talk story and we feed our faces”; for most of their three-hour stint, she said.

But their reputation and knowledge of their neighbors are part of their arsenal.

It all began a dozen years ago when Pekelo saw some teens grab a purse containing $12,000 in cash while a Japanese couple went swimming. Pekelo said she gave chase in her car and turned them in to their grandparents, whom she knew. The money was recovered.

Three weeks ago, she saw some kids scoping out a rental van and yelled, “;You folks better stop it! The kids knew who I was and took off.”;

If she doesn't recognize the kids loitering about, “;we just watch them,”; Pekelo added. “;They know we're watching them.”;

A year ago, Hawaiian Telcom armed the ladies with 10 direct-line phones so they can immediately contact the police if they need help.