Monday, August 21, 2006


Hawaii's dirty little secret: Laws but no enforcement

The North Shore teen deaths Saturday are indeed a tragedy and one wonders how they could have been avoided, or how one can put an end to the speeding and disdain for the law that made those deaths possible.

A Star-Bulletin article today Many teens scoff at new driving law is right on point:
"Even if people are aware of it, they don't care," said Odenkirk's friend Justin Malone, also 16, who said he does not know anyone who follows the law.
Laws are comforting in that they make people think something is being done about a problem. Laws alone don't fix anything, though, no matter how well written.

The article is correct in suggesting that more education and enforcement is needed.

Education is always good, but everyone who lives here knows that laws of all kinds are seldom enforced. This sends a message to teenagers that they don't need to follow laws. They can ignore them at will. Read the teenager's statement above. Can education change what Justin has said? He is educating us. We need to admit that what he said is true.

Pedestrians are killed in crosswalks (Hawaii is at or near the top in single-car collisions). People are killed or injured when cars run red lights, a common occurrence. Speeding and tailgating are so freqent that every driver sees or experiences it whenever driving on the highways. Just a few minutes ago a red car went tearing down Nuuanu Avenue outside the window here at a high rate of speed. No cops, no worry.

There are laws, but both children and adults feel they can ignore them.

I need to take you back to New York, where I'm from, for a moment.

A police car was almost always stationed at one of several points on the Long Island Expressway. One popular place was on the grass just past a gas station. I remember that spot because the car, #1814, was finally auctioned, and I bought it for $300 when I needed a cheap way to commute to graduate school. A coat of paint, fill in the hole on the top where the gumball machine was, put some oatmeal in the radiator, and I got myself some cheap wheels.

Patrol cars were everywhere in New York. How else to keep New Yorkers honest? Several times on my way to school I was reminded that I shouldn't speed--or I would get caught. Hey, it works. It works because the law is enforced. If I speed, I get caught. Simple as that.

When is the last time you saw a police car giving tickets to speeders, tailgaters, red-light runners, or to pedestrians or drivers who ignore our new crosswalk law? Hmmm? When? How often do you see tickets being given out for anything?

It's not just traffic violations. It's almost any law.

One day (we're back on Oahu now) I attended a community meeting in the auditorium of Roosevelt High School. Along the way, the principal mentioned that every Friday he locked up the swimming pool but that kids broke the lock on Sunday to go swimming. On Monday he replaced the lock. On Friday he locked up the swimming pool, on Sunday they broke in again. And so on, each weekend.

This struck me as curious. Also in my mind were the string of assaults on on occupants of cars parked at the Tantalus scenic view spots at night. These happened just above Roosevelt HS. The newspapers reported repeated incidents of assaults and robberies. Neighbors were distraught.

Since there were police there, I stood up and asked two related questions: Since there was no adult supervision on Sunday, kids could get hurt in the pool. It seemed to me that neither the school nor the police were doing anything about the problem. A side issue is that through their inaction, they could be liable for any injuries, since they were in effect condoning the breakins. Why couldn't a policeman just hang out near the pool and stop the breakins?

As to Tantalus, I asked why the police couldn't hang out up in the trees there (I was trying to be funny) and just drop down and capture the evildoers, since they were pretty regular in their assaults and robberies. It should be a piece of cake for them to put an end to this.

The answer was "we only have three cars to patrol the whole area". Like that was an answer???

At the time, I was living in a rental house. Shortly after we moved in, the owner began building an illegal "ohana" attached to it. When it was time for an inspection, the stove and other illegal things were carried out, the place was inspected, and they were put back. These illegal structures were all over the place. Related to this in a way: How did Kailua get to be a hotbed of illegal Bed and Breakfast businesses?

People are not afraid to break our laws. They know about them, and they don't care, and they know nothing will happen to them if they do what they like.

Simply put, Hawaii, or at least Oahu, is a Paradise for lawbreakers. They even had the nerve to testify to the legislature and write letters to the editor that it is their right to speed--thereby killing the Van Cams, which might [if done right] have saved lives. Too bad it was done wrong, there was an example of strong enforcement that might have worked. But speeders don't want strong enforcement.

Spread the word to your friends and family on the Mainland: come to Hawaii and you won't be bothered no matter what kind of illegal or dangerous things you may do. We've taught our kids to say that they don't care about the law. Let's just spread the word to everyone. It should be good for tourism.

Education is good and valuable, but both adults and children can see the lie--and the lie they just do this education thing on you at school, but never mind, out there you can go as fast as you like, even drive without a license...

... because you will never get caught.


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