New, Improved Park at Mililani Waena

Maiya Ezawa

     Within the Mililani community, the Mililani Waena Park has been a growing safety concern for students of the elementary school and residents in the neighborhood. With the park becoming a hotspot for drug use, drug dealing, prostitution, fights, vandalism and homelessness, MHS Principal Fred Murphy and Mililani Town Association (MTA) General Manager David O’Neal created a task force in June 2017 to address these problems. As such, the Vice Principal of Mililani Waena Elementary School Sean Takashima, in addition to members of the neighborhood board, the Honolulu Police Department (HPD), the MTA and Hawaii State Senators Michelle Kidani and Beth Fukumoto, along with City Councilman Ronald Menor are working together to increase security in the area.

     “Now the good news is that I think the task force is really effective. It was started by (Murphy) at the high school. We have the right people on there, the state legislature, we got the Vice President of the Senate Michelle Kidani, we got former politicians over there, we have the principal and the vice principal of Waena school, they’re involved in this thing,” said Neighborhood Board President Richard Poirier.

     The biggest problem that the task force is currently tackling is the lack of protocol for trespassers. “That park is open and closes from 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and during that time the park is closed, no one is supposed to be there. So the problem is the kind of enforcement we got there,” said Poirier. “It doesn’t make a difference what they’re doing. They’re not supposed to be there.”

     Drug users often take advantage of this lack of enforcement, and contribute to subsequent vandalism and reckless behavior. “Just to give an example, the tennis courts, (drug addicts) like to rip up the nets or something. And they’ll get there really high, and then they’ll do damage. So they’ll do the damage and play with fire and light the tennis nets on fire,” said Poirier.

     As a solution to these problems, the task force has decided to implement motion sensors and cameras to discourage illicit behavior. “There’s going to be lights, motion sensors, and cameras. Cameras are the most important thing because you have to catch the kid graffiting and these new cameras now, from a hundred yards away they can zoom in,” said Poirier. “They can get close ups and see if they can identify them. But you know, it’s probably a group of seven or eight people that are responsible for most of this mayhem.”

     In addition to internal security options, there is also an increased amount of external security in the form of police presence, where Murphy has allocated up to $16,000 for special duty presence. “The most immediate need is to increase police presence in the park. That will produce the quickest results. But, we also need to do things like try to increase community use of the park,” said Fukumoto. “We want to make sure Mililani Waena Park is a clean, safe park for the community.”

     In terms of logistics, the task force operates through community brainstorming and collaboration between multiple platforms to acquire funding and manpower for the park. “My role was to share the perspective of Mililani Waena regarding the safety of its school community from illegal park activities. I also participated in the brainstorming of major issues related to the park and gave input in the goals we devised and how we might accomplish them,” said Takashima.

     In the coming months, the task force will continue to meet with local politicians, community members, and concerned residents to create a safer, more welcoming environment at the Waena Park. In the future, they will also work together with nearby homeowners to develop a type of digital neighborhood watch.