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City cameras to stay broken

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City cameras to stay broken

Despite $30,000 spent to repair police surveillance cameras in Chinatown and Waikiki, six of the system's 32 cameras will remain blank indefinitely.

The problem, a city contractor and the city say, is that the maintenance agreement on the devices doesn't cover repairs to power or fiber optic cables that are needed to get the cameras working.

And the city says there is no current plan to fix the cameras, five of which are in Chinatown and one in Waikiki.

The 26 Chinatown cameras cost a total of $436,000. The six Waikiki cameras cost $117,000 to install and look onto the sidewalks of Kalakaua Avenue and side streets.

There are 26 security cameras in Chinatown, and they are monitored at the police substation at North Hotel and Maunakea streets.

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Malfunctions began plaguing the system four years ago.

"Every Tuesday night, we stop in at the police station and ask how many cameras are working," said Dolores Mollring, a member of Citizen's Patrol in Chinatown since 1995. "We keep getting different stories about why they aren't working. We are getting the runaround and I'm getting tired of it.

In 1997, the city spent $400,000 to install the first 14 closed-circuit cameras on the streets of Chinatown. Twelve more cameras were later added along King Street at a cost of about $3,000 each.

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"I'd like to see them all operating. I don't know if people will feel safer, but I think there would be a lot less druggies downtown if they knew the cameras were working and putting them behind bars."

Lon Shealy, an account manager for contractor Sensormatic Hawai'i Inc., said the six cameras have power and fiberoptic cable problems that are "outside the scope of our maintenance agreement."

Sensormatic started work in March on a one-year contract to fix and run the system.

"What we can do is replace cameras and fix them," Shealy said. "We would very much like all the cameras to be up. We are the ones who originally put them in. We are waiting until those issues can be taken care of."

Shealy said just four cameras in Chinatown were functioning when they took over the contract. Now, 21 cameras in Chinatown and 5 in Waikiki have been repaired and are being maintained weekly, he said.

The Chinatown cameras are monitored at a police substation at North Hotel and Maunakea streets.

In 1997, the city spent $400,000 to install the first 14 closed-circuit cameras on the streets of Chinatown. They were touted as a tool to catch criminal activity on tape and use it for evidence in court. Twelve more cameras were later added along King Street at a cost of about $3,000 each.

Problems with the Chinatown cameras began in May 2000 when police moved their substation from South Hotel and Nu'uanu Avenue. The company that had provided the maintenance contract for the cameras declared the agreement void because it was not used to move the equipment, police said. So the city was left without the expertise to maintain the system and it soon became unreliable.

The cameras are mounted on utility poles, and a camera operator watching a video monitor can zoom in and out, rotate a camera 360 degrees and even look straight down

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