LAHAINA - Residents in the 100 to 500 block of Front Street are forming a Neighborhood Watch and working with police to address burglaries and other escalating problems in the area.
More than 40 people met with police on May 8, and a second meeting is set for Wednesday, May 16, at 6 p.m. in the 505 Front Street Conference Room. For information, call Marishia Hannemann at 280-5001.
"I've contacted (Maui County Councilwoman) Elle Cochran's office... and she is helping to give us some assistance on these issues. Also, Maui Police officers Grace and Cadacungan have been helpful in helping us organize our Shark Pit Neighborhood Watch," Hannemann said.
More than 40 residents met with police at a Lahaina home last week Tuesday to discuss a series of burglaries and other problems along Front Street. A second meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 16, at 6 p.m. in the 505 Front Street Conference Room.
In recent months, burglaries have increased at the south end of Front Street.
"I haven't seen real coverage in the news of a string of home burglaries on Front Street in Lahaina. They've taken place over the past month or two and really should be covered in the news, so residents can take precautions... It would be a huge service to the community," a resident wrote last week.
Hannemann said more homeless people are sleeping on the beach from Lahaina Harbor south to Puamana, making noise and leaving behind trash, including beer bottles and syringes.
"Some of the residents that live on the beach expressed how they have had several incidences of vagrant-looking people who are high and out of their minds wandering onto their property and into their homes in broad daylight, sometimes with no clothes on," Hannemann said.
"Just last week, we had three homes in the 400 block that were targeted for a break-in, but only one of the homes was actually broken into. A couple of neighbors have cameras outside their homes and were able to get pictures of the person who broke into the home and also the getaway car."
The rise in crime tarnishes historic Lahaina and Front Street, named one of the 2011 "Great Streets in America" by the American Planning Association, Hannemann said.
She added that the beach is frequented by neighborhood residents and children, cruise ship visitors, guests at Lahaina Shores and customers of five area surf schools.
She feels that "by having the beach occupied by many homeless people, trash, drugs, alcohol and theft - and with these conditions only getting worse - it casts a bad light on the famous Front Street, which is a huge source of tourists' dollars for Maui's economy."
At the May 8 meeting, 17 residents signed up to serve as block captains for the new Neighborhood Watch.
The goal is to increase reporting to police, post signs noting the area is under watch by homeowners and enforce drinking and sleeping bans on the beach.
"We also talked about having more lights on this part of the Shark Pit neighborhood on Front Street because it's too dark, and also more lighting for our public beach accesses where people hang out. Also, with more lighting, it would be safer for everyone and for those who will be doing our Neighborhood Watch patrols in the evening," Hannemann said.
Residents have also asked the county to investigate a large homeless camp mauka of Lahaina Aquatic Center and near the new West Maui Skate Park and West Maui Boys and Girls Club.
Police officers told residents that if calls increase, the department will focus more manpower for Beat Ten from the Pali to Dickenson Street.
Police told the group that due to decreased funding, there is only one officer assigned to Beat Ten.
When Neighborhood Watches are created, residents are more aware of criminal activity and more apt to call police, Hannemann said.
She feels the south end of Front Street is unique and special.
"I always thought it interesting how this neighborhood is on the tail end of Front Street by Lahaina Shores hotel and 505 Front Street - home to the famous Feast of Lele Luau, fine dining restaurants, high-end art galleries, surf and kayak schools - and yet if you walk 25 yards past all that, you have a family type of neighborhood with families that have lived here for many generations," Hannemann commented.
"I've lived here for 14 years in the Shark Pit neighborhood of Front Street, and I've never seen it this bad before. Almost every week, I hear about someone in my neighborhood getting something ripped off or their car or house broken into."