comscore Vandalism of light poles prompts earlier closure of Kakaako park | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News

Vandalism of light poles prompts earlier closure of Kakaako park

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Homeless people are suspected of opening up light poles at Kakaako Waterfront Park to tap into their electrical power. An opened electrical panel on a pole could be seen Wednesday. Crews with the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which operates the park, have cut power to all of the poles.

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    An opened electrical box in Kakaako Waterfront Park on Wednesday was connected to what appears to be a battery with the brand name DieHard imprinted on it, which in turn was connected to an orange cord that ran to a nearby tent.

Starting tonight, Kakaako Waterfront Park — home to a persistent homeless population of about 50 people — will close four hours earlier indefinitely to repair an unknown number of light poles that have been vandalized to gain access to electrical power.

About a half-dozen light poles were discovered Monday with their panels removed. At least one orange extension cord and power strip had been jury-rigged to tap into the electrical grid, said Aedward Los Banos, interim executive director for the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which operates Kakaako Waterfront Park.

“Theft of utilities is a crime,” Los Banos said. “They are causing property damage.”

The vandalized poles were found near the park’s amphitheater, next to the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, where homeless people like to sleep.

In July, the HCDA closed the adjacent Mauka and Makai Gateway parks to repair landscaping and sprinkler damage allegedly caused by homeless trespassers who had taken over the parks. The initial notices said Mauka and Makai Gateway parks would be closed until Aug. 15 “or until further notice.” 

Los Banos said Wednesday that both Gateway parks will remain closed indefinitely. He did not know how long Waterfront Park will close at 6 p.m. instead of the usual 10 p.m.

HCDA crews cut the power to all of the light poles in Waterfront Park and the plan is to figure out the scope of the damage before permanently sealing the poles and restoring power, Los Banos said.

Without lights, Waterfront Park is “pitch black at night,” Los Banos said. “It is a hazard.”

He did not know how much the repairs will cost or how long they will take.

The panels that block access to the poles’ internal power are affixed with special screw heads. With the panels removed, access to the wires inside was “at child height” and posed an immediate danger of electrocution, Los Banos said.

HCDA officials will monitor the effects of closing Waterfront Park four hours earlier and “we’ll be flexible” for the near term, Los Banos said.

For instance, the gates of the parking lot will likely remain open if the lot is full and the ocean is filled with people “who start their surf session at 5 p.m. after work,” he said. “We appreciate the public’s understanding and cooperation until we get this addressed.”

Steve Scott, HCDA’s vice chairman, had called for the closure of Mauka and Makai Gateway parks to repair the lawns and sprinkler systems as a way of “breaking the cycle” of sweeping the homeless only to see them return each morning.

Scott was frustrated Wednesday that damage to Waterfront Park’s light poles means the park has to close earlier.

“This is in response to some of the problems they’ve had with the homeless there tapping into the electrical outlets,” Scott said. “It’s obviously a dangerous situation.”

More than 300 homeless adults and children flooded into Kakaako in mid-2015, creating one of the largest homeless encampments in the country, according to federal officials who toured the area at the time.

Intensive outreach, along with ongoing sweeps, have since knocked the population down to as few as 30 people on some nights.

The majority of those who remain tend to be “chronic” single adults who have been on the streets for years, sometimes decades.

“There’s a problem, but they don’t know what to do with the problem,” Scott said. “It really inconveniences the public as a whole and discourages the public from going down to places like Waterfront Park. A lot of the people still out there on the streets homeless are not looking for shelters.”

As a result, “they have been tapping into the electrical outlets there in the park,” Scott said. “They have been tapping into the electrical outlets at the (Hawaii) Children’s Discovery Center. I saw someone washing their car with a hose tapped into one of the cut-off valves. Now they’re using state HCDA power to run televisions, charge telephones. It’s a drain, obviously, and costing the state and HCDA money.”

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  • Why is there no arrest if the cord leads to a tent? Or do they need to witness a person removing the plates from the light poles? If you are homeless you get to abuse rules and regulations and nothing happens to you. Trash, bicycle parts, human waste, thefts…the cycle is endless. Time for more waha from our mighty peeps in power.

    • Arresting homeless people just gives them free food, shelter and health care. It costs the taxpayers more money to put them in prison. Prisons are no way to solve the homeless problem. Prison is among the most expensive ways to house a person because of all the necessary security.

      • Then why does Hawaii have laws? What’s the point? Why not just suspend all Hawaii laws and let anarchy rule? After all, according to your logic….”It costs taxpayers more money to put them in prison.” Why do you need the courts or even police? Why doesn’t Hawaii just let people do what they want? Suspend the enforcement of all Hawaii laws and disband the judicial branch of government and disband the police force.

      • Rather than arrest and jail time at taxpayer’s expense, ensure our Law Enforcement has crystal clear laws stating any illegal extension cords or electrical equipment using city/state power will be confiscated. Not returned until a $500 fine is paid. Fine not paid, items destroyed.

        Don’t get mad. Get even.

      • You really think it costs more to jail them? False. The homeless are damaging public property, stealing, making a mess of streets and parks, depriving decent people from using the streets and parks that their tax money paid for. These homeless are also costing the hospitals a fortune treating them with medical care and ambulance service and those costs are eventually paid for by us. Put them in jail and make them work for their food, shelter, and health care.

        If you still think jail is not the way then tell us what your solution is.

        • sailfish1 – Not so fast rookie. Those in jail also have access to free medical care at taxpayer’s expense. Mo bettah to leave them on the street. Confiscate any electrical cords and equipment illegally using city/state power. Hit them where it hurts.

  • I’m walking along King St. yesterday afternoon around 12:15 p.m. 2 homeless guys yacking on the sidewalk smoking. I get near them and hear their conversation “I’ve been trying to get a job but can’t get anything!” says one to the other.

    Ya think LOITERING ON THE SIDEWALK and looking like a dirty bum will open JOB doors?

  • When they are “allowed” to live in an area for a long period of time they feel entitled to it & situations like this happen. The parks, traffic islands, sidewalks, etc. are not for public use anymore.

  • This city is hopeless. City officials stand by while homeless wreck our public places. There should be NO homeless camping, there are shelters available.

  • This kind of things continue to happen due to lack of real leadership. Do you think this kind of thing would have gone on when Frank Fasi was mayor.
    I do not think so. He would have enforced the laws to remove these bums from the parks. We have all the laws we need but the people we have in charge, lack the
    cajones to do anything which is why things are the way they are.

    • Crookwell is going to register these PEOPLE to vote. Just chase THEM out of the park and don’t let them SQUAT anywhere. THEY can go to Sand Island or live on the yard at Washington Place or City’s Civic Center.
      Why do THEY have so many rights? If there are VETERANS in that group, SAVE that group then crack down on the bums that didn’t do anything for our country.

      • ah, an interesting point you bring up here…just an observation, but whenever an article about homeless vets is published, there are none of the same comments like throw them in jail, or why are they allowed to live wherever they are etc. Why is that? Does a three year hitch allow for saving in perpetuity? What about criminal behavior, is that acceptable? What about former law enforcement, do you feel the same about them?

  • Throw these bums out of the parks. No camping, no tents, no littering, and no cooking. Confiscate the tents and keep doing it until they can’t find any more tents. Issue citations and if they don’t pay the fine, throw them into JAIL. So what if it costs money to jail them – at least it keeps them off the streets and parks that decent people want to use and it keeps them from stealing and damaging public property.

    The City and State need to coordinate a legal plan to get them off the streets.

  • While the county and state government officials are fighting a losing battle, we the tax payers become collateral damage. First the homeless takes over our parks and streets and now the government officials are denying us the right to these same parks that we pay for, while the homeless goes off looking for another park space to encroach and deny us tax payers further.

  • The City AND State are hopeless! The cops are hopeless too! Instead of setting up speed traps for hardworking taxpayers, send the cops to police the parks, viaducts, sidewalks, etc. and get those homeless bums outta there!

  • As a solution to the light pole utility theft, I would suggest using LED lighting along with direct current power at a low voltage. If tapped into, DC can’t be easily converted into 120v AC.

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