City seeks authority to install surveillance cameras for marathon

Published On: Oct 21 2013 06:42:18 PM HST   Updated On: Oct 21 2013 09:52:45 PM HST

In a letter sent to members of the Honolulu City Council Wednesday, Emergency Management Director Mel Kaku is requesting to expand the use of surveillance cameras during the Dec. 8 Honolulu Marathon. Such authority would come in the form of a resolution passed by the council.

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"We are required by council to not only disclose that, but get their approval in advance of the particular event," explained Kaku.  

Under current city ordinance, surveillance cameras are only allowed in Chinatown and Waikiki as a deterrent to crime. Kaku says the city may erect as many as 12 of the all-seeing, electronic eyes along so-called marathon "blind spots," but that number could grow.  

"We believe those are the absolute minimum," said Kaku. "Like anything else, we could always want more."

A spokeswoman for Council Chairman Ernie Martin said the resolution authorizing the use of surveillance cameras during the marathon will likely be heard next Tuesday by the Public Safety and Economic Development Committee. A required public hearing and final passage would likely occur during the full City Council hearing Nov. 13.

Honolulu Marathon organizers say the request for surveillance cameras comes after the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15. Two brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, are suspected of planting pressure cooker bombs along the finish line of the race that killed three people and injured hundreds more. Since the deadly attack, at least one U.S. marathon has used surveillance cameras to monitor both participants and spectators.

"They were used at the Oct. 13 Chicago Marathon, and they're also anticipating use of these security cameras at the upcoming New York Marathon," said Ricky Taniguchi, the Honolulu Marathon's deputy race director in charge of security. "We endeavor to keep this race safe for all the participants, the spectators and the volunteers as well."  

It's not known how much the installation of surveillance cameras could cost taxpayers, since discussions with Honolulu Marathon officials are ongoing.  However, the resolution authorizing their use states some cameras could remain in place once the race is over to help monitor traffic as well as public facilities.  

"There's no need to put them up and take them down, it's prohibitive in terms of cost to keep repeating that," said Kaku. "It'll serve the public in the long term."

Still, some Oahu residents aren't sold on the idea of Big Brother remaining put once the last marathoner has crossed the finish line at Kapiolani Park.

"They're not necessarily needed, especially since we live in a digital age where everybody's around (and) everybody has cameras," said Waikiki resident Terran Carter. "That money could go towards things that are really necessary right now."

Kahaluu resident Rod Martin took a similar tact, saying Honolulu is an unlikely target for terrorism, and surveillance cameras would not necessarily deter an attack.

"If it'll make the runners feel safer, I don't mind," said Martin. "But, I just think it's unnecessary; it's not going to be a problem."

During last week's Chicago Marathon, race organizers installed barriers, used undercover police officers and required all marathoners to use clear plastic bags for their belongings. Taniguchi said the clear plastic bag requirement will also be used during the 41st running of the Honolulu Marathon.

"Primarily, it's to ease monitoring of what's in the bags," said Taniguchi.

The Honolulu Marathon is expected to attract about 25,000 runners, 10,000 volunteers and countless more spectators. Taniguchi said the race spends about $100,000 on security and employs about 370 special duty police officers on race day.


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