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Farmers, police meet to thwart ag thefts

In an effort to curb agricultural thefts from Puna-area farms, farmers and police met Friday to discuss how to improve lines of communication.

Dozens of farmers met at the Keaau Community Center to discuss their own experiences with agricultural thieves, a well-known and rampant issue in the agricultural community.

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With many in attendance reporting repeated, brazen thefts of crops and equipment, and few reporting justice, Puna police Capt. Kenneth Quiocho said he sympathizes with the farmers’ plight.

“Your problem is our problem,” he said.

While Quiocho acknowledged the police will not be able to stop all incidents of agricultural theft, proper communication between farmers and police can help reduce incidents.

Quiocho urged farmers to report all incidents, regardless of scope, in order to help police paint a better picture of crime in the area.

Quiocho pointed out that the felony threshold for agricultural theft is relatively low — if the theft’s value is more than $100, it is a felony — so any theft reported can be potentially damning if it leads to an arrest.

Several of the farmers in attendance voiced their indignation at the thefts, with many criticizing the police’s previous efforts in dealing with ag theft. Some even went so far as to suggest outright vigilantism as a means of stopping the thefts once and for all.

Quiocho urged farmers to refrain from violence and reassured attendees that he would be personally available to call for assistance.

Although no concrete plans were announced during Friday’s meeting, police collected attendees’ names and email addresses for a contact list in order to keep the community better informed about reported thefts.

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Otherwise, Quiocho urged farmers to practice basic deterrence tactics such as installing surveillance cameras, locks and GPS trackers, as well as keeping valuable equipment locked out of sight when not in use.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.