State of Hawaii

Counties can have
van-cams, state says

But some local officials say
they don't want to
operate the program

Van sites jump but tickets stable

By Richard Borreca

The state wants to turn its controversial photo traffic enforcement program over to the counties and let the local police departments run the camera vans.

But there is no indication that the counties want the program.

Speaking before three Senate committees yesterday, Brian Minaai, state director of transportation, said the state law should follow a model national code, adopted last October by the National Association of Governors.

The model code calls for photo enforcement citations to be treated the same as parking citations and that county police departments provide oversight for the program.

After the hearing, Minaai said although he had not formally discussed the proposal with Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue, he thought it made a lot of sense.

"The police department is in the business of enforcement, and it is the most appropriate place for it to be," Minaai said. "They can coordinate enforcement with their own traffic police officers."

He added, "We have talked to some of the police officers in the traffic division, and they are open to that idea."

It is unclear, however, if Honolulu would take over the program, because city officials say there has been only informal discussion about transferring it.

Donohue said he couldn't comment on the plan until he sees a formal proposal. But he said he did not want a program that would require his officers to meet traffic ticket quotas.

"We are in the business of public safety and law enforcement," he said.

Hawaii County would be unlikely to take over operation of the traffic enforcement vans, said Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for Mayor Harry Kim.

Some time ago, Snyder said, county Director of Public Works Dennis Lee determined that there was no money to install cameras in county vehicles. Police would not have the needed staffing to operate the vans, she said.

Most importantly, money from traffic fines goes to the state, so the county would earn no money from the program to help run it, she said.

Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana said state officials haven't spoken with him about the idea and he doesn't know if the program would come with funding. He said he does not want to take over an unfunded program.

He said that generally, the program might be more applicable on Oahu where there are multiple lanes of traffic.

Apana said that on Maui, where many highways are two lanes, a police officer can more easily pull over a speeding driver to the side of the road.

In January, Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris said he would not cooperate with the state traffic van program.

At the time, his spokeswoman, Carol Costa, said: "The mayor really had a lot of concern over the public reaction over the vans."

Costa said in January that Harris has received reports that drivers may be causing safety hazards by bunching up to avoid having their front license plates photographed and driving extra slowly past the vans.

Harris could not be reached for comment yesterday. Kauai County officials were also not available for comment.

The Senate committee chairs, Cal Kawamoto (D, Waipahu-Pearl City), Donna Mercado Kim (D, Fort Shafter-Aiea) and Brian Kanno (D, Ewa Beach-Makakilo), said they would recommend that their committees reject the plan and simply kill the program. That is the position the entire Senate has taken already in a unanimous vote against the traffic camera system.

The bill the Senate considered yesterday, House Bill 2167, amends the current program.

The van cams are defended in the state House by Rep. Joe Souki (D, Maui), Transportation Committee chairman, who says he has also informally spoken to Donohue about having the city take over the program.

However, Donohue said yesterday his discussion with Souki was a brief meeting while shopping on his day off at Ala Moana and didn't imply that he favored the police assuming control of the program.

The original state law called for 25 roads or highways to be designated for photo van enforcement.

The state picked 15 highway spots on Oahu in its contract with Affiliated Computer Systems, the vendor running the program. No city streets were named because the state had not received lists from the counties by the time the contract was signed.

Star-Bulletin reporters Rod Thompson and Gary T. Kubota contributed to this report.

State of Hawaii

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