Question: I go to Ala Moana Park about three times a week, including weekends. Even on "normal" weekends, there is no parking, so cars park along red curbs -- some even block crosswalks -- but HPD doesn't give any citations. They don't cite even on weekends like Memorial Day. So why did they have to cite people on the Fourth of July, one of the busiest days at the beach? If they're going to give citations for illegal parking, they should be consistent and do it 365 days a year -- not just on the busiest holiday.
Police cite park
Answer: Police do ticket cars -- year-round -- exactly because Ala Moana is so popular, said Honolulu police Maj. Henry Lau, commander of District 1.
For the past 18 months or so, a police bike unit has been patrolling Ala Moana Park almost every day and especially on weekends, he said. Sometimes, however, the bike patrol has to be pulled to help in other areas, so officers are not there all the time and they don't work 24 hours.
"We do issue citations," Lau said, "because there are a lot of problems with overcrowding, people saving stalls. This causes road rage."
On the Fourth of July, "we had to take enforcement action because there were more people in that area than that area could hold," he said. "Parking was the least of our problems."
He estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people were in the park at the height of the fireworks display. As early as 5:30 a.m., an estimated 20,000 people had already gathered.
The Ewa entrance was closed at 7 a.m. because there was no parking to be found anywhere, he said.
"We know from experience that we have to keep up with parking, because people would just park in red zones, making it hard for emergency vehicles from getting through," Lau said. If police looked the other way, "it would be our fault if an ambulance couldn't get through."
As it was, there were at least five ambulance calls, with one near drowning, a couple of nearly severed fingers and eight lost children, Lau said.
The end result was that "we towed some vehicles, we cited a lot of vehicles and we warned a lot of people," he said.
Beyond parking, "we had a very difficult time controlling fireworks," which were illegally being used in the park. "But the only way to control fireworks is a total ban," Lau said. Even with 70 officers assigned to Ala Moana from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., it was not enough.
"We tried to do public service announcements early, but once it goes dark, it's very difficult to control," Lau said. "It's too big an area to manage."
Still, Lau said, he's happy the way things turned out.
Other than a lot of traffic inconvenience -- and a lineup of perhaps 200 people waiting to use the restrooms, there were no major problems, he said.
"I believe we become winners when people can go home safely and talk about the time they had, even if it's about the unpleasant experience of getting tagged. At least they got home safely and that's a win for us."
AuweJuly 4th is the worst parking day of the year at Ala Moana Park, yet the city blocked off some 30 legal parking spaces on Ala Moana Boulevard, supposedly for loading. Thirty spaces blocked all day when three or four would have been more than adequate! And, because the spaces weren't marked for loading as such, only a few people unloaded there. Most people used red zones at either end of the park. -- G.F.
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