Nearly 2,000 cited in overnight park closure confusion

A Honolulu man who was cited by police says rules about where you can and cannot be in Waikiki at night are confusing, especially when it comes to a particular pedestrian walkway.

John Smith was cooling down from a midnight run near Kapiolani Park when he headed down a pedestrian walkway along the shoreline.That’s when a police officer rolled up on an ATV.

“I’m thinking maybe he was going to see what the homeless people were up to, but he told me to stop and told me he was going to cite me,” Smith said.

Smith was cited for being in the park during closure hours, which is from midnight to 5 a.m. “I didn’t really think it was part of Kapiolani Park,” Smith said. “It just seems like the sidewalk.”

KHON2 asked Honolulu City Council member Stanley Chang about confusion over the walkway.

“I think both more education and more signage as well as warnings before citations are issued, all of those things are going to be needed so that everyone has an equal opportunity to comply with the law,” Chang said.

But police say besides more than 100 signs already in place, officers also spent months warning the public about the law, which was put in place in 2007 to address concerns about homelessness and crime.

Smith believes the officer could have used better discretion. “He could just walk up and down here and give a million tickets all night and I just think its kind of ridiculous,” Smith said.

According to police, in 2013, officers issued 1,780 park closure citations in the Waikiki area, which includes Paki and Kapiolani parks and Waikiki Beach. They also gave out about 1,400 warnings. Smith says several others walking on the path were also given citations, including a visitor from New Zealand. Visitors can send written testimony to the courts if they want to fight a citation.

“Our laws should all be enforced equally and that means… if someone is violating the law, they should be equally treated no mater what their status is,” Chang said.

Smith believes cases like these only clog the court system and were not the intent of the law. “I wasn’t going through the park bothering anybody,” he said. “You’d think it was common sense. I’m just jogging.”

Smith’s court date is set for April 8.

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