Starting tonight, 59 city parks will be locked at night to curtail vandalism and illegal homeless activity.
Since April the city began hiring American Guard Services Inc. to lock bathrooms and parking lots at 25 urban parks. The program then expanded to include 16 more parks.
And now 18 additional city parks — from Makapuu to Mokuleia — are scheduled to be locked each night by American Guard Services employees, then reopened each morning by park workers.
Park closure hours vary but typically run from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Combined, the city will be paying American Guard Services Inc. $200,000 to lock all 59 parks through April, said Nathan Serota, spokesman for the Department of Parks and Recreation.
In all, including botanical gardens, the city has 299 park facilities.
Three of the new parks scheduled to be locked at night — Waimanalo Beach Park, Waimanalo Bay Beach Park and Waimanalo District Park — are in Wilson Kekoa Ho’s neighborhood, where he estimates 50 to 100 homeless people sleep overnight.
So Ho had a one-word response when told the city plans to lock those parks starting tonight: “Thankful.”
“They should be closed because vandalism hits the parks from people at night,” said Ho, chairman of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board. “They improve things, then the next day, the next week, it’s destroyed again.”
Ho said he sympathizes with many homeless people, “but it’s the irresponsible ones that make it harder for the community. It’s a community park and not a personal park for the homeless.”
All of the vandalism and illegal homeless activity also is not fair to park workers who “try to do their best to keep it safe,” Ho said. “So they should be closed (at night). You’ve got to be responsible.”
In a statement, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, “Our parks are a tremendous public asset and they deserve our malama and respect. By expanding the parks security initiative to our District IV parks, we are helping to ensure that our parks don’t fall victim to vandalism or other destructive acts.”
The city began clamping down on illegal park activity last year following more than 600 acts of vandalism over the previous three years.
In a separate program, the city hired another security company — Hawaii Protective Association — to send pairs of guards around the clock to patrol nine city parks for illegal homeless activity, at a cost of $44,000 per month.
The presence of the guards has not eliminated all illegal homeless activity in and around the nine parks.
But since the pilot project began Nov. 15, Caldwell’s office has been monitoring activity. Photos and descriptions of what they have found in and around the nine parks can be found at bit.ly/2Qsimwy.
In announcing the program, Caldwell said the nine parks were chosen based on complaints about homeless activity.