Keeping Law And Order In Waikiki

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 29, 2006
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While I was going to college, I worked as a security officer for the Sheraton Hotels in Waikiki for more than 10 years. It was a wonderful experience, and I’ll always be grateful to the Sheraton Corporation for allowing me the honor of working on the midnight shift all those years.

I had the pleasure of working with some great security officers, police officers, secret security officers and all the interesting people who live, work and make Waikiki one of the most dynamic communities in the world. One day you could be chasing someone trying to defraud an innkeeper, and then that night be standing guard over a rock star, all in a 24-hour period.

I didn’t know anything about resort security when I started, but after 10 years of pounding the beat one thing became very clear: Security is not a revenue-producing function in a resort community. If a security force cuts down on lawsuits against the corporations that run the hotels, then they could be looked at as a revenue-saving function.

There are not many older residents who have hung around Waikiki after midnight, and the ones who have were probably looking for action, any kind of action. In the good old days when everything was bad, drunks and scam artists were the biggest problems. In the ‘70s, drugs became a much bigger problem. The drug dealers were looking for buyers, and the drug users were looking for money to purchase more chemical happiness.

That’s when Waikiki became what it is today, a sort of jungle.

Most corporations have competent security forces in house; however, they are spread very thin over a lot of territory. The police department can’t be everywhere, but will show up quickly if trouble breaks out. The public has to realize that the resort community does not want uniformed police officers wandering around its property. More often than not, the police have to be called onto the property. Nothing can damper a party mood more than a uniformed police officer in a place like the Monarch Room in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel arresting a drunk and disorderly vagrant. When a guest is unruly in a hotel, it is a much easier scenario to deal with. When you are not a registered guest in a hotel, your options are limited when trouble erupts.

It’s interesting that the president’s traveling party was able to make it through Cambodia, Vietnam, Russia and Indonesia, but didn’t encounter any major problems until it reached Hawaii.

Motorcycle police officers, each one of them hand-picked for this prestigious duty, crashed into each other while leap-frogging ahead of the president’s motor-cade.

And because the president stayed at the admiral’s quarters at Hickam, the rest of his party had to stay in Waikiki. And in the process of “relaxing” at the International Market Place after a hard day’s work, one of them was mugged, making headlines in the national media.

For some unexplained reason, our society in Hawaii is almost always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense demonstrated by those in charge of placing blame for such an inexplicable incident. There is no excuse for anyone being mugged and robbed anywhere. It doesn’t matter how late at night it was, or if the victim was intoxicated. It is against the law.

Will it hurt the Hawaii tourist industry? Chances are, if the individual who got mugged was not member of the president’s entourage, it would have been a non-news story.

Is it possible to prevent every mugging in Waikiki after midnight?

Absolutely not. It’s a jungle down there after dark, and the time for trouble - just like any other resort community in the world.

Should the taxpayers demand wall-to-wall police protection for tourists?

No, that wouldn’t make the jungle any safer.

If it were possible, would cameras, warning signs and patrolling guardian angels keep fun-seeking tourists safe from the predators who roam resort communities?

No, not likely.

The reason? Security is a non-revenue-producing function and is, in most cases, an unbearable cost to hotel owners. Besides, it wouldn’t be a good idea to make Waikiki look and feel like the tourists were visiting Stalag No. 17. Resort communities should be a little carefree, wild, decadent but safe too.

Why not look at the bright side? Hawaii has joined 14 other states, and we now have a no-smoking law that will keep secondhand smoking from causing lung cancer and heart disease in those who live, play and work in our jungle.

That’s not something you can say about other resort jungles.

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