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New police program cleans up homelessness and crime in parks

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KTVZ

By Kristen Consillio

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    HONOLULU (KITV) — Just six months ago illegal activity and homelessness at Crane Park was out of control.

Neighborhood residents said they didn’t feel safe and the community center remained empty.

That’s when Honolulu Police Department officers stepped in.

Working with the city, they came up with a plan to be more embedded in the community.

“When we moved in here the first day we came out the door and there’s a guy smoking ice right by the door, so it got to the point where these people felt it was okay just to smoke ice out in the open,” said HPD Acting Major Brian Lynch.

In May HPD moved an ATV crew into the community center.

“We had the guys ride ATVs, which allowed them to get into the nooks and crannies of the parks,” he said. “Every morning the officers are here, every morning this park gets a sweep, and then from here they go out into the community to the other parks and deal with community complaints.”

The strategy appears to be working.

“For years it used to be real bad, we used to have guys sleeping on this wall over here, all over there and they used to do drugs right here — ice and everything. It was so bad I had to call the cops three times a week to get them out of here,” said Nicasio Rediros Jr., who lives across the street from Crane Park. “It’s much safer now.”

The program’s also made police officers more accessible to the public.

“We’re not in our car just driving by going from case to case,” Lynch said. “We’re out there and we’re enforcing park rules, so everybody gets to enjoy the park the way the park was originally designed to be used.”

Crane Park is now home to half a dozen officers who also canvas Moiliili Neighborhood Park and Stadium Park.

They’ve made 38 arrests and issued more than 2,500 criminal citations in the parks.

But they don’t just do enforcement.

They also offer outreach — referring people to drug abuse and mental health treatment programs and a place to get off the streets.

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