Burglaries, drivers speeding in residential neighborhoods and Tasers were among concerns voiced by citizens to police commanders during a meeting Thursday at the Hilo Police Station.
One woman who lives on Waianuenue Avenue above Hilo Medical Center said she’s been subjected to speeders, drag racing, gunshots and “people driving by with a drink in their hand or a big cloud of smoke” coming from their vehicles.
Hilo Patrol Captain Richard Sherlock told the woman police have “new technology” to give officers “more ways to figure out what’s going on and at what time” to monitor speeding.
A man who said he lives in the 1400 block of Waianuenue asked if police “increased patrols in the area … since we’ve had all these burglaries?”
Sherlock assured him there have been “heavy patrols in the area” with “both marked and unmarked vehicles.”
“We track the burglaries very closely and respond very quickly,” he said.
Alan Okinaka, who is involved with an unofficial Waiakea Uka watch called “kumiai” said neighborhood vigilance has helped to decrease burglaries, auto thefts and vehicle break-ins through information shared with police and kumiai members.
“It has empowered residents in Waiakea Uka by having that information,” he said. “… The more information they have, the more they feel they have a way of looking after each other.”
Chief Harry Kubojiri said he commends “neighborhood watches and things like what you’re doing.”
“It makes it a whole lot easier for us to have eyes and ears in the community because we can’t be everywhere,” he said.
Marcella “Bobbye” St. Ambrogio, the county’s neighborhood watch coordinator, encouraged people to get involved in helping police keep neighborhoods safe, adding, “We’re not looking for vigilantes. We’re looking for neighborhood watchers. … The purpose of neighborhood watch is to observe and report, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Gerald Kita said his home had been burglarized.
“They broke into my house,” he said. “I don’t feel safe. I check the lock 20 or 3o times before I go out,” he said. Kita expressed dissatisfaction with police response saying, “When we report it to the police department, they no do nothing.”
Kubojiri said the department is working on obtaining a crime mapping program to show where crimes are occurring and what the crimes are through the police records management system. He said such a system would make information available online to ordinary citizens.
“We get calls from mainland visitors asking what is the crime rate in a particular area? We get it all the time,” he said. Kubojiri said such a system would also provide real-time information to officers on the beat and neighborhood watches.
Okinaka encouraged police “to send out as much information as possible in as many ways as possible,” and for expansion of the use of Nixle email and text-message alerts.
“Nixle works well, but it’s very specific to lost people and criminal acts,” he said. “I’d like to see it expanded to cover burglaries.”
Kubojiri said Nixle alerts are “only as quick as we can get the information inputted.” He said he’d like to get more young people involved in disseminating police messages through social media and text messaging.
“They can get the information out faster than we can put out media releases.”
A woman said she was choked last month by another woman at a Hilo hotel.
“I believe I’ve been treated unfairly and I can’t seem to get anybody interested in my situation,” she said. “… The police were called and the officer I dealt with at first told me it looked like a hickey.
“I have the utmost respect for law enforcement. … But when the report came out it was completely inaccurate.”
She said the report stated the alleged assailant “put her arm around me and called me a b——, but I was choked and terroristic threatened.”
The woman also complained it took her a week or more to get a copy of the police report. Kubojiri replied that officers dictate the information by phone and civilian word processors type up the reports, which then go back to officers for proofing, then back to the word processing center, then the final report goes to a supervisor for approval. He acknowledged it takes “about a week” before the initial reports come back.
One man questioned the department’s use of electronic stun guns, or Tasers.
“Instead of that, whey don’t they just use throw net?” he said.
Kubojiri said that some departments have gun-like devices that propel nets at perpetrators, but called them “cost prohibitive.”
The chief defended the use of Tasers saying they are used for the protection of both officers and suspects. He said the device works by neuromuscular incapacitation, or NMI, rather than electrical shock.
“It’s like a cramp. It locks your muscles up,” he said.”
Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune- herald.com.