Crime, homelessness and drugs have plagued Chinatown businesses for years, prompting some tenants to take back their community.
One year ago, Smith St. in Chinatown was riddled with criminal activity.
“I heard the stories that went around on the street,” admitted artist Xisco Peculiart.
“It was really sad, a lot of drunkenness and people passing out anywhere that they could,” said Kathy Sills of Aloha Pops.
Things got so bad, at least one well-known business moved to get away.
“Were you at all concerned because this particular location was actually on the news for having a lot of criminal activity and a lot of problems?” KHON2 asked Sills.
“I was concerned,” she said, adding that she did a lot of research before deciding to open shop. “I checked out a lot of the video and stories that were done previously.”
Sills then reached out to the community to try and turn the neighborhood around.
“I went and introduced myself to the police department as being kind of the new kid in town and that I wanted to help out in any way that I could, reached out to people that live in this building that are on the street,” she explained.
Peculiart also makes an effort. “Just being present, putting art on the walls, talking to actual people here who live here and have stories to tell,” he said.
And it’s working. Tenants say over the past year, they’ve seen a significant drop in loitering, crime, drunkenness and homelessness.
“You see a lot more people here to do business and to look for businesses,” Sills said. “At first our motto was we bring out the kid in you, and I think that it’s our peace offering to say, hey, we are here to create happiness.”
“You have this crime. You have art. What is it that can meld together to create some kind of dialogue between the two and maybe solve something?” Peculiart said.