Safety infrastructure breakdowns cover UH campus

Last week, KHON2’s Always Investigating report received promises of change to track and deter sex assaults on campus at University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Since then, KHON2 uncovered serious problems with some basic things that are already supposed to be in place to help.

A network of university campus security measures has several cracks from broken phones to cameras that aren’t being watched or recorded.

This pathway between the UH Manoa practice fields and the dorms has a broken emergency call box for a lifeline. A gecko jumped out when I opened to test it. No connection to campus security — a dead line. Up the hill is another chance, if someone under attack could make a break for it. But that one took me two tries and six rings to get an answer.

Maybe I’d be safer at one of these fancy newer emergency towers? It has a camera after all.

“I went about five minutes ago in front of one of those cameras, waved my hands, can you show me myself?” KHON2 asked a campus security official back at their headquarters.

“No, I cannot show you yourself,” said Capt. Albert Pukahi of UH Campus Security. “We’re not recording on that camera.”

Turns out only a couple of the nine camera call boxes installed can record as opposed to just relay live video.

One records just outside the Campus Security office so they could see KHON2 coming there, except for when even that one blacked out for a bit. The other records a parking garage driveway.

“Is there any reason those two would be selected to record or just random?” I asked.

“They’re random,” Pukahi said, adding that only a few were ordered with recording capability.

“Why didn’t they just order the recording from the beginning?” No one knows for sure.

And, Campus Security can’t even watch all the cameras that are out there.

“They’re not online at this time but we are working to get them online,” Pukahi said. “They should be online this semester”

As for the broken phones, they’re all over campus. Security knows it, they’ve logged it too.

“When we get these we notify Telecom,” Pukahi said, holding a Feb. 9 inspection log that showed 9 call-box locations in disrepair, “so unfortunately we got word we did not notify them after the 9th.”

“So what will you do now?” I ask.

“We will notify them for sure,” Pukahi said.

We told students what we found.

“Why spend all our tuition money on putting these things up and maintaining campus if they don’t really work and they’re not being maintained?” said junior Kim Luz.

“You’re holding a cell phone, why not just call 911 on that?” I ask.

“What if there’s not any time,” Luz points out. “What if I get attacked and they take my phone?”

“I feel definitely scared about it because if something were actually to be happening to can’t rely on that to help you out,” said junior Emily Walker.

“What do you want the campus to do about it?” KHON2 asks.

Walker says: “Definitely to fix them.”

Like a lot of things at public facilities, the fixes can be bogged down in bureaucracy or backlogs.

“I think we all know the position our facilities folks are in,” Pukahi said, “so it’s difficult for them as well.”

“What can you do, or can we help to get others to do, to change that?” KHON2 asks.

“Shedding light on it is big,” Pukahi said, “that’s big.”

Students want more light shed everywhere, especially if the cameras aren’t really watching yet.

“There are definitely a lot of places on campus that are dark and that’s the only thing we’re going to see,” Ryan Mandado said, gesturing at one of the newer call boxes with the non-recording cameras on top, “but they can’t see us. How are they going to save us on time if we do get attacked?”

Just the other week, Campus Security put out an alert after a woman got slapped on the rear end, an apparent cell phone video prank that crossed the line. It happened in one of those dark spots, not even a call box nearby.

“What will you do about those areas?” KHON2 asks Campus Security.

“Those are areas we identify, we also partner with facilities so they’re really aware,” Pukahi said.

“You know, a slap on the butt is a sex assault. For those who don’t know, you can get arrested for that.”

But you can’t get arrested by Campus Security.

“We can detain you and call the police,” Pukahi said.

Efforts to transition the team into a campus police force are caught up red tape, too.

KHON2 asked the administration what’s the status of that?

“Chancellor Apple has expressed interest in the creation of a campus police force,” UH Manoa said in a statement. “However, he also realizes that more discussions need to take place with all stakeholders, which include the students, faculty, staff, parents, community, government entities, unions, businesses, etc. This must be done before a timeline can be set.”

As for the other pending items:

“Do you have everything you need for you and your team to do your job right?” KHON2 asks Campus Security.

“We could use more personnel for sure,” Pukahi said. “We have five vacancies that we’re hiring for out of a staff of 47.”

KHON2 asked the chancellor’s officer about money and deadlines to upgrade the security network, and to hire more staff but they couldn’t give us those answers.

KHON2 will keep pressing to find out how quickly the problems can get addressed.

Related story:   Is UH Manoa doing enough to track, deter sex crimes on campus?

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