Police department switches up resources from Waikiki to Chinatown

Waikiki is the most densely populated part of Oahu and considered a crown jewel for Hawaii’s tourism industry.

But a decision has been made to have fewer patrol officers there.

The Honolulu Police Department says newer officers who are still in training will be assigned to Chinatown. In the past, they would go back and forth between Chinatown and Waikiki.

We wanted to know why a change was made. KHON2 spoke with a tourism official, who is also a former mayor of Honolulu, and he said he’s not terribly alarmed by the decision, as long as it’s temporary.

Thousands of people from all over the world come to Waikiki every day, so any crime here could have damaging repercussions to the tourism industry. There’s an HPD substation, because police presence is a necessity.

But former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann, now president of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, tells us that doing without the additional officers in training is okay with him.

“It shouldn’t be alarming at all for businesses in Waikiki?” KHON2 asked.

“I don’t think so,” Hannemann replied, “but, obviously, you always want to see a lot of police officers around, because that’s the number-one deterrent to crime. We have a very public police substation here in Waikiki. That’s very important.”

As mayor, Hannemann says he’s seen the HPD shift their resources in the past — if the crime rate is higher in one area, then more officers were sent there.

So we checked HPD’s CrimeMapping website and it actually shows that Waikiki has more reported crimes compared to Chinatown. Last month, there were 221 in Waikiki and 151 in Chinatown. In December, there were 249 in Waikiki and 175 in Chinatown.

Hannemann tells us the crime rate is only one determining factor to shift resources.

“It could be people calling in to the mayor’s office, people calling their area council member, and I say people, the public in general and business owners, so I think HPD does a pretty good job of keeping tabs and making sure that Waikiki is always protected,” he said.

Folks in Chinatown say they like the idea of having more police officers in their neighborhood, but they are concerned about whether they are being used efficiently.

Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, president of the Chinatown Business and Community Association, says police presence is needed, but she would like officers to put less priority on jaywalking and parking infractions, and instead go after more serious crimes.

“To me, drug dealing, gambling, burglarizing and attacking people in Chinatown are priorities to us,” she said, “so if they can focus on those things, I welcome them.”

We’re still waiting for a response from the Honolulu Police Department as to why exactly the change was made and when. A spokeswoman did say that it could change when needed.

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