HONOLULU (KHON2) — Park rangers could patrol and enforce rules at City parks in the near future. It’s a proposal moving through the City Council that aims to curb crime and illegal activity.
City Council Chair Tommy Waters introduced the bill citing the need for extra eyes and ears amid the Honolulu Police Department’s staffing shortage.
We’re Hawaii’s weather station, get the latest forecast and radar information here
“We want the police officers out there solving crimes and keeping the community safe,” said Tommy Waters, Honolulu City Council Chair. “Having them have to now learn all the park rules, that’s just a lot to ask of our police officers.”
Waters said the bill gives Parks and Recreation the authority to create park ranger positions within the department.
“You get somebody dressed in a nice uniform and maybe even Smokey the Bear hat,” said Waters. “That when they see illegal activity or businesses that really shouldn’t be doing business in the park, they can issue a citation. We don’t want them to do arrest, just a citation kind of like a parking ticket.”
Frequent park users said they agree with Waters and support the measure.
“With everything that goes on in the parks these days I think it’s an awesome idea to have park rangers,” said John David McClellan, a Kaneohe resident. “Here in Hawaii, HPD has to get a little break sometime they can’t be everywhere at once.”
However, DPR has some concerns with the proposal.
“I think well this is very well intentioned,” said Laura Thielen, Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. “It jumps the gun and goes directly to criminal citations and that may not be the most effective way to reduce unauthorized activities in our parks.”
Instead Parks and Recreation is looking to see how a federally funded pilot project works. The two-year project would fund five park ranger positions and would take a more educational approach.
“These people would have the parks shirts on them and would pair them up because our staff have already warned us that in some cases when you go up and approach somebody about enforcement there can be a violent response,” said Thielen.
Whether it’s through a pilot program or permanent solution, park goers are just hoping for more safety.
“As the park rangers would make everyone feel better, I guarantee I would feel more pono to be here at the park,” said McClellan.
Interested in jewelry heists gone wrong, other strange news? Check out Weird News
The bill has passed second reading and will go the parks committee next.