Train car graffiti just latest in string of crimes at Honolulu rail sites

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Rail officials hope the cleanup of a rail car vandalized by graffiti is done by the end of the week.

According to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, Ansaldo Honolulu is working with two companies to remove it, possibly with the same cleaning chemical that TheBus uses for graffiti.

Police are still investigating, but haven’t told us of any arrests.

HART says contractor Kiewit Kobayashi Joint Venture (KKJV) provides the general security at the Rail Operations Center in Waipahu, and has taken additional steps to increase security, including at the train inside the Operations and Servicing Building.

But we’ve learned the graffiti break-in wasn’t the first crime there, and in fact, the site was hit just last month.

Always Investigating dug into the project’s monthly reports to find out what other crimes have happened at the site. The number of cases begs the question: If the site has been a target before, how did someone get in again last week, and what are officials doing about it?

The Rail Operations Center, and the maintenance and storage facility, is a sprawling property between Leeward Community College and Waipahu High School, home to what will be the hub of the entire system and garaging the first four train lengths already on island.

The price tag so far: $275 million.

It’s one of the single most expensive facilities that will be built along the rail line and it appears secure from the outside with multiple layers of tall fencing surround the whole property.

Yet it’s been the target of several crimes over the past several years.

The monthly reports reveal things like equipment stolen from the facility just last month — including copper, according to HPD. There were also vehicles burglarized and stuff stolen from them too. A generator disappeared, a fence was cut, a forklift and a van had their ignitions broken and windows pried open.

Even a few years ago, people were trespassing.

Last Friday, when KHON2 was out to cover the graffiti story, we spotted and reported another big hole in a perimeter fence.

“Security definitely needs to be ramped up at the rail yard, because this eventually will be a mass transit system where safety and security need to be very important,” said Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine.

So just how much security is out there?

We’ve been trying to get answers from HART, which has so far said only that contractor Kiewit has “stepped up security,” but doesn’t explain how.

According to Lance Luke, a cost engineer who took a tour of the place and talked to rail hub workers last week, the morning the graffiti happened to be discovered: “I was surprised, first of all, regarding the security system, which I found out basically was nothing.”

We found a couple of building permit applications for the site that mention security systems, but those have been stalled since 2013.

HART hasn’t yet told us the current status of alarms, cameras or any other specific security resources in place. They say crews are assessing the condition of perimeter fencing and will be making repairs.

Though they told us insurance would cover costs of the graffiti cleanup, we’ve asked what the deductibles are that taxpayers will have to pay, not only for the paint removal, but any losses from the 60 security-related incidents along the whole project so far.

Always Investigating combed through six years of monthly reports — month by month — to pull out details of those 60 incidents.

We asked HART for the full security data about a month ago, and haven’t gotten that from them yet, but our investigation revealed the rail project, work sites and construction yards beyond just the rail hub has been a substantial target of thieves, vandals, and things even more dangerous.

For example, a worker was assaulted last July in the Kamehameha guideway area of the job. A couple months later, a Kiewit truck got hit by a BB gun.

In the fall of 2014, someone pulled out a handgun and threatened a guideway worker within days of another section of the project reporting a gunshot noise from a passing car.

HART said contractors report incidents to police.

We’ve asked HPD to look into whether any arrests have been made, and we’ll report back once we hear from HART on what specifically is being done to improve security.

HART released the following update Monday:

Ansaldo Honolulu Joint Venture (AHJV) is working with 2 companies to remove the graffiti from the vandalized rail car and is checking on the availability of the same cleaning chemical that TheBus uses for graffiti removal.

AHJV expects the work will conclude later this week.

Kiewit Kobayashi Joint Venture (KKJV) provides the general security at the Rail Operations Center and is responsible for the protection and security of the buildings, track and equipment under its contract.

KKJV has stepped up security at the train inside the Operations and Servicing Building and has taken additional steps to increase security.

Crews are assessing the condition of the perimeter fencing at the site will be making repairs as needed.

The Honolulu Police Department has not notified HART of any arrests in the case and its investigation continues.

Over the course of the past five years, some minor thefts of items such as small tools have occurred at the Rail Operations Center and have been reported to police by HART’s contractors. No damage to permanent facilities has occurred.

HART will issue additional updates as warranted.

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