Permanent curfew considered for Hawaii public housing project
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
The state is investigating the possibility of making a 10 p.m. curfew at Kalihi Valley Homes permanent, though any such plan would face hurdles.
Denise Wise, director of the Hawai'i Public Housing Authority, said residents at Kalihi Valley Homes have shown strong support for a temporary curfew instituted April 1 in the wake of a string of violent confrontations, and have called on her to keep the curfew for all residents in place.
She stressed that discussions of instituting the curfew permanently are preliminary, and added that it's not yet clear whether such a practice would be permitted under state or federal laws.
"If we wanted to do something permanent, we'd have to look at what that should look like," she said.
"Right now, at KVH," Wise added, "I'm hearing overwhelmingly they would like (a permanent curfew). I look at it as an option and can we do it?"
The state attorney general's office has given the housing authority approval to keep the curfew in effect temporarily — for up to 120 days — saying such an action is within HPHA's right to tackle a public safety threat.
But the office has not addressed the question of a long-term curfew.
And lawmakers and legal advocates say making the 10 p.m. curfew permanent for residents who live at the 372-unit Kalihi Valley Homes on Likelike Highway would raise legal questions — and could have implications for the more than 5,600 families statewide who live in public housing.
Rep. John Mizuno, D-30th (Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Fort Shafter), said he can see making some elements of the temporary curfew at KVH permanent, including requiring residents to show IDs to get on the property and identifying troublemakers so guards can keep them out.
But, he said, mandating that all residents remain indoors from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., as required under the current curfew, may violate the law and would penalize people who have done nothing wrong.
"I would not support a continuation of the curfew if it would violate people's rights," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union has also raised issue with the curfew.
But residents at KVH have come out in force to support it. At a recent meeting at the housing complex, residents overwhelmingly praised the curfew and said it had helped quell violence.
Longtime KVH resident Pat Kamalu yesterday said she and many of her neighbors support instituting a permanent curfew.
"Overall, everybody likes it," Kamalu said. "It works. It's really been pretty good."
Wise has pointed out that other public housing authorities on the Mainland have instituted curfews, though most — if not all — of those appear to target youths only or were temporary, to address short-term crime concerns.
National housing experts contacted yesterday could not recall a housing authority ever requiring a permanent curfew for all residents.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees HPHA's management of its federally funded units, has not objected to the temporary curfew and has in the past suggested other communities use temporary curfews to address public safety threats.
The discussion of a permanent curfew comes as the Hawai'i housing authority struggles to address security concerns at public housing projects in the urban core, and as residents say other measures to fight crime in recent years, including adding security guards, have proven ineffective.
The curfew was instituted after a string of violent confrontations between feuding gangs at KVH and nearby public housing project Kūhiō Park Terrace escalated into a shooting in March, which injured two people.
"These were very extraordinary circumstances," Wise said.
Wise initially said the curfew would be in place for KVH and KPT.
But KPT residents spoke out against the curfew, saying it was too restrictive and would do more harm than good. Instead, other measures were taken at KPT, including adding more security personnel.
KVH and KPT community leaders have also met to talk about security.
Wise said that although she plans to look into what it would take to make a curfew permanent, she's working under the assumption that the measure is temporary. So far, she added, the curfew is working at KVH.
It's not yet certain whether the curfew will last the full 120 days, however.
Wise said the housing authority is also looking at other options to increase security. It has already added guards, and Wise said other ideas include improving outdoor lighting and installing security cameras. Those improvements could be made with existing appropriations, she said.
The state spends about $450,000 a year on security at KVH, Wise said. Most of that money goes to pay for guards and other security personnel.
Wise said some of that money could instead go to other measures.