Hawaii official proposes armed rangers to deter homeless

AP News
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Posted: Jul 09, 2017 11:42 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — A Honolulu official is proposing stationing armed park rangers at city parks, where homeless encampments are common, because of a growing amount of trash and safety concerns.

Residents have taken issue with piles of trash and smell they say come from homeless encampments, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2tDBo4N) Sunday.

Jen Tema, who lives in the Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu, said she avoids passing through lookouts at Diamond Head Monument because of the overwhelming stench coming from the area.

Her son no longer surfs at the lookouts because of feces left in the water by homeless campers and her kids need to wear shoes instead of slippers over fears of discarded drug needles and used condoms on floors at parks, Tema said.

City Councilman Trevor Ozawa wants residents to vote on a 2018 City Charter amendment to place armed park rangers in city's biggest parks. The proposed rangers would be able to address illegal camping, littering and vandalism and enforce no-smoking policies.

"We continue to see enforcement issues, continue to have issues with our homeless population in our parks, and need to make our children's safety a priority," he said. "We need to continue exploring ways of keeping our park users safe and our facilities free of vandalism and destruction."

The city already has an unarmed park ranger program in place at Kapiolani Park, Hanauma Bay and the city's most-used park, the Ala Moana Regional Park, said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. City park employees also have a new shift that runs from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.

He wants to work with Ozawa to continue improving conditions, but thinks armed park rangers would be an unnecessary expense.

Instead Caldwell plans to ask the next Honolulu Police Department chief to create a division dedicated to homeless concerns.

"We are addressing the issue of people getting too comfortable in one place," Caldwell said. "There's no doubt that we are spending a lot of money addressing a very small population that continues to cause significant impacts at our parks and in Waikiki."

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com