Lincoln Park, located at Kinoole and Ponahawai streets in downtown Hilo, is the newest county Parks and Recreation location to have a security guard located on site.
Parks officials say the move came after a storage room was broken into and supplies were stolen, instances of vandalism as well as drug paraphernalia being found.
“Sometimes you’ve got to take the extra effort to have some extra presence there so that kind of (activity) doesn’t happen on a regular basis,” said Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Waltjen said. “People don’t realize, but when parks are vandalized or storage rooms are broken into, it does cost the county a lot of money.”
A security guard has been on site at the downtown park for a “couple of months.”
“Right now, (we are) looking for all kinds of ways we can curtail illegal activity and people camping overnight in parks that are not allowed for camping,” Waltjen said. “In addition (to) that, we are trying to make sure the parks are safe and clean for the children to play in.”
Waltjen said the department experiences problems in parks all over the island.
Drug paraphernalia has been found in bayfront parks and soccer fields, vandalism happens “on almost a weekly basis,” and several weeks ago, people broke into the Kawamoto Swim Stadium area by jumping the fences.
“Gates are locked, doors are locked, but they climb over the fence,” said Waltjen. “It’s an ordeal. It’s almost like playing catch up. You finally get a park restored or do some improvements, (and) the following week, (you) have someone go in and vandalize the park.”
Waltjen said the presence of security in county parks could “quite possibly” expand in the future, but “the thing is that security services cost a lot of money. Right now we really don’t have (that) money. It’s a challenge.”
The department has spent $465,000 on security so far in the current 2018-19 fiscal year and has requested about $471,000 for security next year.
Security, which is hired through a private vendor, is also on site at Spencer Beach Park, Isaac Hale Beach Park, Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens, Maunakea Park and Pahoa District Park, which also housed an emergency evacuation shelter after the Kilauea volcano eruption began May 3 in lower Puna. Although emergency shelter operations ceased in September, Waltjen said security is still on site in Pahoa.
According to Waltjen, Parks and Recreation has also been working with various community group who “have taken a stewardship, who go around and assist the department in various security-type services” in other parks, as well as community officers from the Hawaii Police Department.
Come next month, however, Waltjen said she is looking for other alternatives as well.
“We do have cameras and we are selectively installing video cameras in areas … where vandalism has been problematic.”
Waltjen thanked the public “for being vigilant,” and said patrons should call the department or the police if anything strange, unusual or illegal is noticed.
“We want to make sure that parents and children feel safe at the parks. … The park is open for all people, and we would like to ensure that the safety and the health of our children are our No. 1 priorities.”
Email Stephanie Salmons at email@example.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald