Nine of the 64 video surveillance cameras at the state Capitol don’t work and the computers that run the system no longer allow sheriff’s deputies to monitor all of the functioning cameras at once, state officials acknowledged Wednesday.
State Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, said he peered into the sheriff’s deputies’ Capitol substation Wednesday and said no images from the security cameras could be seen on the deputies’ four monitors.
"While many of the cameras might be working, it’s still useless if you have a camera with no television screen," Espero said. "I’ve seen it completely out like that for many months, going back to last year. It gives people a false sense of security thinking there are these cameras and someone’s monitoring them and watching this building, which is open to many people 24/7. We’re talking public safety and the security of the Capitol building."
The state Department of Public Safety would not let the Star-Advertiser into the substation on Wednesday, for security reasons.
Keith Kamita, deputy director for law enforcement for the state Department of Public Safety, said the monitors are working, counter to Espero’s assertion.
The surveillance system is meant to let deputies monitor the Capitol’s public areas, entrances and hallways for possible crimes and trespassers and to track demonstrations, Kamita said. The system records video 24 hours a day.
Sheriff’s deputies are also supposed to see images from 60 of the cameras on one of four plasma monitors, Kamita said. However, they can now view images from only 15 cameras at once, he said.
"They’re having to jump to this 15 and this 15," Kamita said. "… As things have degraded and gotten older, we’ve done numerous fixes on the system. But at this point, things are starting to age."
The system was installed in 2006 by Halawa-based Hawaiya Technologies Inc. at a cost of $169,000, said Mun-Won Chang, one of the company’s co-owners.
Hawaiya Technologies has proposed "half a dozen" maintenance contracts, which have never been approved, and has been troubleshooting the system for free, Chang said.
"The problem is their power system," Chang said. "When we installed it, we told them they need to upgrade their power system. From day one, they never did. Every time there’s a power surge it takes down the entire system. Whenever you do that to electronics, you know what happens.
"They call us at all hours — day and night — and we provide support. The fact is it’s their electrical system that brings down the system all the time and damages the system. It has me very frustrated."
Asked why she would provide free maintenance, Chang said, "It’s the state Capitol."
She estimated it would cost $200,000 to upgrade all 64 analog cameras to high-definition, digital versions; add six additional digital cameras to give deputies complete coverage; replace the four plasma monitors with more modern ones; upgrade the computers; and link the system to state and city emergency operations and civil defense.
"Don’t try to do a band-aid approach," Chang said. "Upgrade for complete coverage."
Hawaiya Technologies Inc. got the system fully operational for November’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that drew the heads of 21 nations and President Barack Obama to Oahu, Kamita said.
"Everything was running," Kamita said. "They jury-rigged it to last. But as an aged system, it’s starting to go down again."
Renting a new system instead of buying a replacement could be cheaper, Kamita said.
The Capitol system was purchased through the Department of Accounting and General Services but is maintained by the Department of Public Safety, said Dean Seki, acting state comptroller.
He said a bid will go out this year to replace or upgrade the video system, but he did not know how much it will cost.
"We recognize the importance of this," Seki said.
Seki and Kamita pledged to work together to find a solution.
Asked if the money will come from Public Safety or the Department of Accounting and General Services, Seki said, "That’s a good question."