Thursday | December 14, 2017
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Old A park security contract canceled

KAILUA-KONA — Hawaii County is cutting security at Old Kona Airport Park, which was intended to ensure homeless didn’t re-establish illegal campsites there after police ushered them out in August.

Managing Director Wil Okabe confirmed Thursday that at the behest of Mayor Harry Kim, the county canceled its private security contract with RMT Enterprises Security Division.

The county hired RMT in August to monitor Old A from 9 p.m.-5 a.m. daily. It is closed from 11 p.m.-6 a.m., during which time all activity within the park is prohibited, including camping.

Okabe could not provide an exact date of the cancellation but said it was “a few weeks ago.” County officials said initially the contract would last one year.

“We had (security) because we were going to transition the homeless out to Camp Kikaha,” Okabe said, referencing the makeshift, outdoor homeless camp next to HOPE Services Hawaii in the Old Kona Industrial Area in Kailua-Kona. “Once we realized Camp Kikaha was set, there was no need to have security down at the (park).”

RMT could not be reached for comment by press time Thursday.

Okabe said cost also was a factor in the decision to cancel private park security, as two guards were at the site every night, each earning more than $20 an hour.

Police said in August that RMT would serve as a deterrent by informing HPD promptly of homeless presence in the park after hours.

The idea was that through enough citations and inconvenience, the homeless would get the message and permanently relocate.

Okabe said police will continue to conduct checks of the park at random.

“There was a situation where it got out of hand,” he said. “So now that there’s nobody living there, we’re going to try to monitor very closely to ensure that once we see people violating the law, we’re going to address it very quickly.”

Police were conducting sweeps regularly for months before the county swept dozens of homeless out of the park, and citations didn’t prove effective at keeping people out.

HPD Area II Maj. Robert Wagner said police have swept the park consistently, even before the county hired private security.

The Community Policing Division was out at Old A most recently Nov. 6. He said no citations have been issued to homeless campers during either of the past two sweeps of the park. The Patrol Division also conducts occasional checks of the park at night, he said.

Okabe asked that any community members who notice campsites at Old A to contact police, the mayor’s office or the Parks and Recreation Department.

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