Visitor Public Safety Conference
Earlier this week, we hosted our third annual Visitor Public Safety Conference via Zoom. Made possible in partnership with the Waikiki Improvement Association, the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association, the Hawai‘i Hotel Visitor Industry Security Association, Retail Merchants of Hawai‘i, and the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai‘i, the conference featured a slate of speakers and panelists from a variety of backgrounds including state and county government, law enforcement, the visitor industry, and the nonprofit sector.
As you know, past iterations of the VPSC have brought together community stakeholders and policymakers who were able to enact meaningful changes on various issues. Over the past few days, we have been working to distill the information gleaned from the conference in order to identify the key areas upon which to focus.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard kicked off the morning by raising two longstanding topics that affect the travel industry and the Waikiki neighborhood in general: human trafficking and homelessness.
Human trafficking is an issue that those of us in the lodging industry are uniquely positioned to help tackle and an area that HLTA has focused its efforts on in the past. You may recall that we partnered with Ho'ōla Nā Pua to host a series of symposiums in each of the four counties that provided hotel staff with tools and strategies to identify and report suspected instances of human trafficking. Using what we learned during these sessions, HLTA issued its Human Trafficking Disruption Plan in January of 2020.
On the homelessness front, HPD Major Mark Criccio used the VPSC as an opportunity to announce a new program to address public safety in Waikiki. The P.E.A.C.E program (Proactive Enforcement Against Criminal Elements), is a two-tiered approach to tackling chronic issues within the district, most notably homelessness. The first tier is education and outreach. Any time that a homeless individual is observed breaking the law for the first time, they will be offered access to social services through organizations such as IHS and the Hawai'i Health & Harm Reduction Center. This could include anything from medical care to being assisted in obtaining identification. In the first six weeks of the program, P.E.A.C.E officers made meaningful contacts with 144 individuals in the Waikiki area. Of these, 70 accepted help or accessed needed services.
The second tier is zero tolerance enforcement. If an individual refuses help during their first contact with HPD and are observed breaking the law again, they will be immediately cited or arrested. In the time since the program's inception, P.E.A.C.E officers have issued 425 citations and made 61 arrests.
In a follow-up meeting with District 6 Captain Herbert Soria and Acting Lieutenant Blake Arita, the initiative's founder, we also learned that HPD has built close relationships with ABC Stores and is looking to do likewise with other business partners in the Waikiki area.
Our VPSC Planning Committee will met next week to discuss how we, as a community, can follow-up and follow through on the things we learned from this year's conference.
I've shared a recording of the VPSC above. You'll be able to listen to remarks from Lt. Gov. Josh Green, HI-EMA Director General Kenneth Hara, Mayor Rick Blangiardi, Senate Tourism Chair Glenn Wakai, House Tourism Chair Richard Onishi, and Council Chair Tommy Waters. You will also be able to watch panel discussions covering everything from youth crime, to homelessness, to COVID-19. Watching the recording of this year's conference will truly give you a sense of how diverse and knowledgeable our speakers are.
Yesterday, we joined HTA and the Department of Health to host two webinars aimed at familiarizing general managers, executives, and HR directors with the processes needed to sign their associates up for a vaccination appointment. DOH Deputy Director Cathy Ross led these discussions and detailed the options that hospitality industry members have to seek out a vaccination.
She also answered numerous questions covering a wide range of subjects pertaining to the vaccination and simplified the process for us all. A video recording of the event is linked above and is also posted on HLTA's website homepage. It is a relatively short webinar, and I highly encourage you to take some time to watch it.
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