Maunakea Traffic Enforcement Generates Substantial Revenue

October 27, 2019, 12:24 PM HST (Updated October 27, 2019, 1:21 PM)
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Maunakea overviews, July 22, 2019. PC: DLNR

Policing the protest of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Maunakea has cost the State and County of Hawai‘i millions, but one law enforcement strategy is putting money back in government coffers.

Since Aug. 15, the Hawai‘i Police Department has cracked down on traffic violations atop the mountain. HPD has characterized the effort as an attempt to protect motorists and pedestrians alike, but it’s also proven to be a significant source of revenue.

As of Oct. 24, police have issued 5,461 citations. HPD Maj. Robert Wagner broke down what that means in terms of fines issued.

“Tickets that have a fine attached average over $100,” Wagner wrote in an email to Big Island Now. “Most tickets given have fines attached. Some tickets do not have fines attached and require court. So the fines assessed in court is something that occurs at a later date. I would say at least 80% of the tickets given on the mountain have fines attached.”

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“The most frequent citation given is speeding,” Wagner continued. “Speeding ticket amounts differ depending upon how far over the limit you were going. For example, if you are going 15 miles over the limit, the fine is $142, then jumps up $5 for every mile over 15 miles over. Driving 15 miles over the limit or higher is a common ticket given on the mountain.”

Based on the most conservative of estimates, HPD has doled out fines to the tune of nearly $450,000 over the last 10 weeks — at a bare minimum. The precise amount of fines levied and paid as of Sunday, Oct. 27 was not available.

Fines collected go to the State General Fund, and do not necessarily benefit Hawai‘i County directly.

The County reported that it had spent $4.1 million as of Oct. 4, with most of those funds supporting law enforcement efforts. State agencies had spent nearly $3.5 million during the same time period, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

Wagner said there is no required quota put out by the department each month for traffic violations.

Police have reiterated that Maunakea traffic enforcement is not targeting the protestors, but is a measure solely intended for their safety. The vast majority of tickets issued have gone to people driving past the protest, not participating in it, police have said.

HPD has also executed 51 arrests for 84 offenses due to the Maunakea initiative.

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