POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 7, 2011
The city appears to be poised at last to install security cameras along Kuhio Avenue, with the looming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in November no doubt prodding officials along.
We would like to add a little extra push, if for no reason than to reduce the chance of APEC visitors watching Hawaii's famous aloha spirit being overwhelmed by more salacious attractions.
It's not as if money needs to be scraped together for this improvement. The Hawaii Tourism Authority has agreed to pay $175,000 to the city to install four cameras on Kuhio, counterparts to those long operating on Kalakaua.
Officials said the project has been delayed because the city discovered that the electrical and communications network did not support the original camera design.
An alternative was devised, and the Carlisle administration pledged in an email this week that the notice to proceed would be issued May 31.
The city needs to ride herd on the project to ensure it's operational by the end-of-summer start date the HTA set.
Planners said cameras should be operating by summer's end at Kuhio and Seaside avenues, and at Kuhio's intersection with Kanekapolei, Nahua and Nohonani streets.
There is already support at the back end, too: The Waikiki Business Improvement District Association has a crew of monitors watching the closed-circuit video images at the Waikiki police substation.
Advocates for civil liberties worry that the cameras pose an intrusion when other methods exist, such as police foot patrols and good lighting. However Kuhio is already well lit, and Waikiki has better police coverage than many other districts — as it should, given the area's importance to the state's bedrock tourism industry.
And cameras that aim at the public thoroughfare are not excessively invasive, since nobody has an expectation of privacy on a city street.
Critics say there is no statistical evidence that cameras lower the crime rate. Some cite a 2009 study by Northeastern and Cambridge universities showing little change in crime rates in, for example, town centers. They say it relocates crime rather than deterring it overall.
That might be so, but when the location is one of Waikiki's two major arteries, sweeping crime somewhat off that beaten track might not be a bad outcome.
Stephany Sofos, a longtime resident and realty businesswoman in Waikiki, disputed the studies, and pointed to criminal deterrence at area condominiums and houses where cameras are installed. Further, she said, the cameras help provide evidence to prosecute crimes that do persist.
"We have gotten so big as a cosmopolitan area that there are people who just don't want to do the right thing," she said. "You have to protect the public from these people."
She's right, and now is the right time to act. That's true not only because Honolulu must cater to the VIPs coming for November's conference, but because all Waikiki residents also want an environment where prostitution, drug-dealing and other crimes produce less of a blight than they do now.