The homeless population in Chinatown has grown by about 30 percent, according to the chairwoman of the area’s neighborhood board.
That has deepened the push for the city to hire private security guards to patrol the area.
The proposed city budget would spend $200,000 on private security guards to patrol streets around city-owned buildings in Chinatown.
Specifically, the guards would watch over city buildings on River, Pauahi, Maunakea and Hotel Streets as well as Nuuanu Avenue.
Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock is, among other positions, president of the Downtown-Chinatown Neighborhood Board and has long been an advocate for the area. She is skeptical of official counts of the homeless population.
“We have an increase of at least 30 to 35 percent homeless people in Chinatown in the past six months. And these are not your local folks that we know. We know most of the faces here, these are new people.”
Merchants complain to her daily about the homeless leaving messes behind, including cardboard they’ve slept on, food and drink containers, or relieving themselves in their doorways.
One of the main missions of the private security guards will be to enforce sit-lie laws. Shubert-Kwock says that will go a long way toward preventing many of the chronic problems associated with the area’s homeless population.
“When these folks get high, and the combination of substance abuse, of drugs and alcohol, we get a very virulent situation here. It’s very highly charged and dangerous for a lot of us.”
For the security guards, “I think the duties are quite specific, they’re to make sure that they enforce the sit-lie, no drinking, no drug-taking, no sleeping, no fighting on our sidewalks, that alone is a big, big help.”
The Honolulu Police Department already has a substation in Chinatown — but the department’s difficulty in filling officer vacancies has been well-publicized.
HPD issued a statement through spokeswoman Michelle Yu, who said, “the Department generally supports those efforts that will make the community safer.”
Shubert-Kwock says they’ve seen increased community policing and vehicle patrols by HPD, which they appreciate.
The budget bill and its Chinatown security proposal gets a hearing on Wednesday.