Visitor Public Safety Conference:
The current influx of headliner news highlighting crimes taking place in our islands set the stage for our association, along with various public safety partners, to host the first ever Visitor Public Safety Conference. After months of planning, our efforts came to fruition this past Tuesday at the Sheraton Waikiki as members from all sectors of our community came together to share their mana’o in a free-flowing format that featured a lively question and answer exchange between panelists and the audience led by moderators Robert Cravalho, former HPD officer, Bulla Eastman from Aqua-Aston Hospitality, and Rick Egged of the Waikiki Improvement Association.
The conference, co-chaired by Honolulu City Council member Trevor Ozawa and I, was a success, with over 200 stakeholders in attendance including members from government, visitor industry affiliates, law enforcement, private businesses, the armed services, and the community. I would like to extend my gratitude to the steering committee, guest speakers, panelists, and moderators for their time and expertise in leading the discussions that took place.
Members in attendance had the opportunity to hear from public safety leaders which included guest speakers Chief Susan Ballard of the Honolulu Police Department and Honolulu’s Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro. Chief Ballard reiterated the strong focus that HPD is putting towards the continued safety of our visitors and residents and addressed the issue of barring cabaret licenses that operate till 4 a.m. in the Waikiki District. Prosecutor Kaneshiro spoke to the congestion in our courts system and how it consequently leads to a revolving door for criminals, and as a result posed a strong argument for the need for more prison space.
The conference’s four featured panels each highlighted the problems that we currently face on the public safety front. Our first panel addressed law enforcement, which amongst topics on homelessness and drug trafficking really brought to light an issue plaguing our police department, prosecutor’s office, and businesses in Waikiki, and that is the lack of crimes being successfully reported. They really drove home the point, especially First Deputy Prosecutor Chasid Sapolu and HPD Acting Captain Eric Yosemori, that victims of crime need to be more willing to testify and prosecute.
Our second panel, focused on crimes against visitors which called for an increase in police presence in the Waikiki district. Longtime Waikiki Commander, now HPD Deputy Chief, John McCarthy offered valuable observations based on his many years of battling crime in Waikiki. He also reiterated Chief Ballard’s suggestion that there needs to be a serious discussion on the merits of cabaret establishments that dispense alcohol till 4 a.m. Jessica Lani Rich outlined the proactive steps that VASH undertakes when helping a tourist who has been a victim of an unfortunate incident while visiting Hawai‘i. HHVISA’s Jerry Dolak presented an action plan that calls for more HPD foot patrol, more security cameras, more businesses willing to trespass criminal offenders, more stores and restaurants willing to prosecute, and more ways to call or tip HPD without using 911.
Our lunch session spotlighted Acting Major Jay Trinidad from HPD accompanied by members from both the Army and Naval branches of our military. The panel discussion illustrated a need for increased dialogue and communication between businesses, HPD, and the military. It was refreshing for all to hear that the military does look forward to receiving our input and suggestions on dealing with some of the more sensitive issues with respect to tourism.
Lastly, we closed the afternoon with experts in the field of Youth and Juvenile Reform. The panel focused on issues surrounding the physical, social and psychological dynamics feeding into our juvenile crimes. Acting Major J. Pedro led off by highlighting HPD programs that work well with young people such as the Police Activities League, while First Circuit Court Judge Mark Browning spoke on the woefully deficient mental health resources available for at-risk youth. Adult Friends for Youth’s Deborah Spencer-Chun touched on the need to address the problems of young people in groups, as opposed to individually servicing them as they tend to regress back into criminal habits through gang mentality and peer pressure, and Wahiawa Storefront School’s Colette Kajiwara expressed the need to do more in combatting the proliferation of drug use in youth circles. At the end of the day all the problems pointed to one underlying challenge and that is the lack of sufficient funding to provide essential programs and critical support services.
The conference was a success on all fronts and truly serves as just the first step in an ongoing process. Now that we’ve had the opportunity to bring all concerned parties to the table the next objective, as I stated at the conference, is to build a checklist of short and long term solutions which we will work to execute upon. The Visitor Public Safety Steering Committee will be meeting next week to start phase-two. Stay tuned as we keep you updated on the progress that we are making.
Charity Walk & aio Media/HLTA Awards
Charity Walk is our biggest event of the year. This year, our 40th Anniversary, is rapidly approaching on May 19th! Our neighbor island chapters are beginning their preparation as well. Our Oahu Charity Walk kick-off will begin with a rally at Dole Cannery’s Pomaikai Ballroom on Wednesday, March 7th. This will be a great opportunity for team recruiters to pick up their packets and collateral pieces. If you or a representative is unable to attend, please coordinate directly with the HLTA Office to pick up your materials. For more information, click here. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Jared Higashi at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Charity Walk website, www.charitywalkhawaii.org
Lastly, the aio Media Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Awards are on March 8th. We’ve already sold over 300 tickets, and registration closes Friday. If you’re interested in attending, please purchase your tickets here. For additional inquiries, please contact Melina Hicks at email@example.com
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