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Honolulu leaders seek to improve public safety and homelessness


Recent street crime in Waikīkī and elsewhere on Oʻahu has drawn the attention of local leaders seeking to improve public safety.

Honolulu Council Chair Tommy Waters is co-hosting a virtual town hall meeting about safety in Waikīkī on May 26. Panelists include Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm and Honolulu Police Department Maj. Randall Platt.

Meanwhile, Alm says progress is being made with another challenge on the streets: homelessness in Chinatown.

Alm recently told HPR’s Catherine Cruz that a new approach is helping with a long-standing issue.

“We’re talking about people sleeping on the sidewalk on Maunakea Street or on Pauahi. We are convinced almost all of them have mental health or drug and alcohol problems — or both," Alm said.

Alm says more than 100 homeless people have been arrested in Chinatown for felonies, mostly for drug possession.

“What we’re doing now is getting them assessed, and then the (Hawaiʻi) Department of Health will try to line up which is the most appropriate program for them in the community — whether it's Hina Mauka, whether it's Poʻailani, whether it's Salvation Army ATS, whoever it is," he said.

"And then an order will be cut, we'll stipulate with the public defenders, and they will get picked up at O'ahu Community Correctional Center by the Department of Health and taken to the program," Alm said.

Alm says that it is a different situation with offenders who commit violent crimes.

He says in those cases, tougher sentences are appropriate to send a message about public safety.

"We're trying to not just get them off the street, but help them stay off the street," Alm added.

Click here to register for the Waikīkī public safety meeting.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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