How To Put An End To Vandalism?

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 01, 2009
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Vandalism is a problem that is begging for a solution. It’s been around for a long time and, in Hawaii, it’s getting worse. Many acts of vandalism, for some reason, don’t seem to demand a solution from our elected officials.

Problems deserve solutions. The residents of Enchanted Lake in Kailua were targeted by vandals, who smashed their mailboxes and spray-painted walls and automobiles in the entire neighborhood. Police rounded up a few suspects, but were unable to book them because there were no eyewitnesses to the criminal property damage. A few nights later, vandals cracked the windows of nine parked cars along Kalaloa Street in Halawa. And like the Kailua attack, there were no eyewitnesses to help the police make any arrests.

There are a couple of problems with these stories about vandalism.


First, it appears no one wants to get involved -maybe because they fear retribution if they come forward as witnesses, or it could be they are expecting someone else to step forward.

The second problem is that there is a possibility that government law-enforcement agencies could take the position that, if the residents don’t want to protect their homes and property, why should the law-enforcement agencies be overly concerned? After all, it’s just property crime.

The Honolulu Police Department does a good job of advising and organizing Neighborhood Watch programs. They will even show residents how to make their homes more difficult to burglarize. Many neighborhoods have banded together and installed security cameras, which may cost a lot to installed and maintain; however, if the residents are reluctant to come forward as witnesses, security cameras are just about the last resort.

What’s really interesting about vandalism is that no matter where you go in the world, there is one thing you find for sure: homeless people on the street and graffiti scribbled on the walls of streets, even churches. Vandalism is a national and international problem. Just painting or repairing the damage is no guarantee that the vandalism won’t occur again, any more than closing one park for maintenance will reduce or cure the homelessness problem plaguing small-business owners and tourism executives.

The big question is: What other tactic would curb or wipe out vandalism?

I’m an amateur at this kind of thinking. There are people right here in Hawaii who could come up with a better solution to the problem of vandalism than I could. Most attempts in the past 20 years have centered on laws that make it more difficult to buy aerosol paint in hardware stores. Just painting over the vandalism has merely aroused the competitive spirit of the graffiti artists. The idea of giving the vandals walls where they can display their creative artwork has not worked well, because this is a “gang thing.”

The whole idea of tagging is almost, if not already, a part of police science - meaning the HPD knows who these vandals are, but cannot do much without witnesses or pictures on security cameras.

Doing nothing seems to be unacceptable because sooner or later, residents will get caught up in the game and retaliate, like a Kailua lawyer did when his house was “egged.” It all leads to frustration and eventual vigilantism.

Let’s face it, a homeowner who catches vandals smashing his home or car can be expected to act irrationally. Making a citizen’s arrest is a dangerous task for the untrained Samaritan.

What’s probably the saddest fact about this kind of vandalism is it’s nothing more than a form of recreation to these kids. Lights are not on in the parks, basketball courts are closed down, and there is little supervised recreation available for most families to count on to ensure the worthy use of their children’s leisure time.

Maybe it’s time to put some more money in the highly successful Police Activities League (PAL).

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