Honolulu police will ramp up enforcement starting this weekend for quarantine breakers and violators of newly instituted emergency proclamation orders as Oahu sees a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard delivered some tough talk Thursday: “We’ve tried to warn people, educate people. At this point, there are probably going to be very few warnings. It’s going to be either citations or arrests.”
In addition to regular patrol and other officers on the road, HPD is creating a 160-officer team dedicated to enforcing the rules seven days a week, and the chief is asking the public to report violators.
Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell instituted a new emergency proclamation titled, “Act With Care — Do Not Gather,” with some past prohibitions and closures being reinstituted.
Yet some activities or types of businesses that have proven to be the source of the spread of the coronavirus, such as gyms and churches, will remain open.
Caldwell said he thinks the most important part of the order is “effective enforcement on an island of a million people crowded together.”
HPD’s special COVID enforcement team is being funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, Ballard said. HPD will receive $13 million if the situation continues through December.
Police union head Malcolm Lutu welcomes the infusion of money.
“If she’s going to use COVID money to enforce the mayor and the governor’s proclamation, that’ll be great,” he said.
“The city cut our budget back by $10 million for the last three months,” said Lutu, president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers.
“Staffing is between 70% at the max and we’ve gone as low as 59%, depending on what area you’re working,” he said. “If a guy calls in sick, you cannot replace him.”
“It’ll take the burden off the patrol guys for calls for service,” he said.
Beginning Saturday through midnight Sept. 4, all city and state parks and beaches will be closed.
The mayor did say people can cross the parks and beaches to go into the ocean to surf, swim, paddle, dive, fish and practice native Hawaiian gathering.
Restrooms will remain open for all.
However, no one, including the homeless, are allowed to remain in parks or on beaches.
Ballard said the homeless are not exempt from the emergency proclamation and HPD will cite or arrest them if they are in parks.
The COVID enforcement team will respond to COVID-19 complaints, and conduct proactive patrols across the island, particularly where large gatherings are seen.
“If they have a dedicated group that can handle the beaches, that’ll be great,” he said, adding that HPD has its own ATVs.
Lutu, who works in Waikiki, said on the weekends “people are bringing pop-up tents, gathering and barbecuing” in its parks and beaches.
Ballard urged the public: “If you see any violations of the emergency proclamation, we’re asking you to please report them and the police will respond.”
The hotline, which will open 10 a.m. Sunday, is 723-3900. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ballard concluded her prepared segment of the news conference with a plea: “Please abide by the emergency proclamation. We need to get this state open. We need to get our island open.
“So I’m just begging you please. We got 28 days. Let’s show that we can do this.”