Na Maka o Ka Po‘e: The Eyes of The People
Neighborhood Watch volunteers are helping to keep our Villages safe.
If you’re up to no good in the wee hours of the night and you feel like someone is watching you…they probably are.
The Neighborhood Security Watch (NSW) is one of 12 community programs sponsored by the Honolulu Police Department. The goal of the NSW is to increase public education, awareness and prevention of local crime in the community. There are approximately 10 Neighborhood Watch (NW) groups in Kapolei that are taking initiative to stop crime before it gets out of hand and it is proving to be successful.
They aren’t rough and tough vigilantes; instead they are caring, honorable residents dedicated to protecting their ‘ohana, friends and neighbors. They work hand-in-hand with HPD and have gained great respect in the community.
The Kanehili Homestead NW group is one of the standout forces of Kapolei. “Captain” Ruth Kepo‘o and “Overseer” Jodi Akau are the leaders of the pack. Kepo‘o, 72, is a grandmother of eight by day and crime stopper by night. The group was established in 2010 due to the rampant drug problems ravaging the area. They started with nearly 60 volunteers but five years later they are down to only a handful of members ranging in age from 12 to 80 years old. Those that remain go the extra mile and have even formed a splinter group, the Citizens Patrol (CP), and take to the streets on foot looking for suspicious activity. On occasion, they ride the bus into Kapolei town where they couple-up and set out in separate directions to patrol.
Most NW groups meet once per month but Kanehili CP gathers as often as duty calls—even if that means crawling out of bed at 1 a.m. Often, the security guards at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands building call the NW coordinators in the middle of the night for their assistance on patrol. This particular bunch prefers to be ‘out and about’ after midnight anyway, yet they carry no weapons for self-defense, they say they are not scared for their safety.
“Nothing can happen to us unless God says so,” says Kepo‘o with a smile.
The NW promotes non-confrontation and believes that generating visibility can be enough to prevent unlawful activity. Officer Tanya Fiaseu has been working side by side with the Kanehili group for four years now and vouches that they are the “eyes and ears” of the area.
Kanehili CP carries radios and wears bright blue or yellow, self-designed ‘Citizens Patrol’ T-shirts. Hanging around their necks are HPD-blue, blinking glow sticks. Believe it or not, this is enough to discourage many nefarious characters from completing a late night drug run or make teenagers who are ‘smoking something funny’ scatter. When notified of a suspicious location, the NW club stands just off the property and documents all the happenings by taking photos, writing down license plates and any other relevant details.
“I’m applying for a 501 (c)(3) so we can get funding to get all of us golf carts because we do a lot of walking,” says Akau. They also wish to acquire vests and flashlights.
In the future, NW groups hope for larger participation from local residents. The Kane-hili bunch is covering as much territory as possible but more manpower is desired. They represent at numerous community activities like marching in city parades, painting graffiti walls and helping keiki cross streets before school in order to promote awareness.
All residents are encouraged to help. The need for extra eyes is there and the deep friendships built through the program are important. The volunteers are a proud, admirable troop and get a thrill reminiscing over past busts and ongoing accomplishments.
For more information or to join your local Neighborhood Watch group, please contact Jodi Akau at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 620-9169.