Chinatown police presence modified after neighborhood feedback rolls in


POSTED: Sunday, September 20, 2009

QUESTION: Whatever happened to the tripling of police officers in Chinatown in April prompted by a fatal shooting and retaliatory stabbing on River Street?

ANSWER: Honolulu police have maintained the extra presence and continue to assess on a weekly basis whether to keep them in the area, said police Maj. Clayton Saito of the Chinatown district.

“;We have increased the feeling of security for the residents and the people that frequent Chinatown,”; he said.

He added that community groups have also helped police to monitor the area and keep it safe.

“;All those things contribute to the lower crime rate and feeling of security,”; he said.

In April, residents demanded more police after the violence broke out on River Street. They complained of drug use and homelessness.

Former Chief Boisse Correa vowed to help by tripling the number of officers in the neighborhood.

But the increased enforcement wasn't welcomed by all residents; some complained of overzealous ticketing and an intimidating police visibility.

Since then, officials have spread the extra officers throughout the day, keeping some extra officers on until after midnight, Saito said.

Saito didn't have statistics, but said crime has gone down.

The extra officers were never considered permanent and could be shifted to another part of the island if something happens. The increased enforcement also had an added benefit—deterring illegal parking that took up space in loading zones, Saito said.

“;I think, overall, the sentiment is they're happy to see the additional police officers,”; he said.

Roy Venters, of the Studio of Roy Venters on Nuuanu Avenue, still complains of the strict enforcement of parking rules, which could scare away customers.

Resigned to the strict enforcement, he now warns his customers about parking laws, but concedes that officers have become more flexible by easing up on ticketing jaywalkers during First Friday, the monthly community event.

The police enforcement, he says, has gladly taken a back seat to concerns for accommodating the growing crowd on First Fridays.

“;We have bigger problems to deal with,”; he says.

Ed Korybski, executive director of the Honolulu Culture & Arts District, complimented the police for toning down the aggressive presence that intimidated visitors.

He thinks the growth of First Fridays also helps the area overcome its old perception as a seedy area.