Friday, Aug. 12, 2022|
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Police say there has been an uptick in property crimes in Puna — especially auto thefts and auto break-ins.
According to statistics from the Hawaii Police Department, there were 45 reports of auto thefts and 32 reports of unauthorized entry to a motor vehicle in November in Puna. That compares to 21 reports of a stolen vehicle and 17 reports of vehicle break-ins in Puna in September, two months earlier.
Capt. Scott Amaral, commander of Puna Patrol Division, noted that property crimes “are up in the past few months, in our district.”
According to police, 24 of the November auto theft reports were from Pahoa addresses, and 18 were from Keaau.
Nineteen of the November vehicle break-ins were from Keaau, while nine were from Pahoa.
He added that many of those thefts were reported in the Hawaiian Beaches and Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivisions.
“We have seen an increase of thefts of vehicles, as well as car break-ins, in those areas,” Amaral said. “There’s a particular group of individuals that we believe are responsible, and we’ve got our Special Enforcement Unit working on it, along with Community Policing officers, trying to bring that down.”
Amaral said many of those break-ins and thefts are crimes of opportunity. He said a police media release in September asked people to not park in isolated areas, leave their cars unlocked or their windows down, leave their keys in their cars or valuables within the vehicles.
“We put that out to the Neighborhood Watches to put out to the (homeowners’) associations, as well — and we still have the same issues, especially with people just not locking their cars or leaving their keys … inside the car,” Amaral said.
Another hot spot for vehicle thefts and break-ins is Government Beach Road in lower Puna “in the area of Mermaid Ponds, down by Highway 137, the old Four Corners,” Amaral said.
Mermaid Ponds is one of the few remaining tide pools along the Puna coastline that wasn’t inundated by the 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kilauea volcano, which makes it a popular spot for swimming.
“You know, people are parking in these isolated spots, leaving their cars on the side of the road,” he said. “We’ve had both break-ins and cars stolen … especially down at Mermaid Ponds. … People go back to their cars after they’re swimming,” to find their cars broken into or stolen, Amaral said.
He said because the owners are away from their cars, thieves can leave the area long before the victims find out a crime has been committed and report it to the police.
Burglaries, long a problem in Puna, are up as well. There were 16 burglaries reported in all of Puna in September. In November, there were 15 burglaries reported in Keaau alone, plus eight in Pahoa and three in Mountain View for a total of 26.
James Barker, who resides in HPP and, by his account, talks often to neighbors, said he’s become “increasingly concerned about the incidents, the break-ins and the thievery going on.”
He said thieves are “roosting” at the lower end of the subdivision, near the more expensive homes on the shorefront, casing the neighborhood for possible marks.
“One of the guys at the corner of 1st Avenue and Makuu (Drive), he’s been broken into three times in recent months,” Barker said.
Barker described another recent incident in HPP as a “blatant and reckless” daylight heist of a vehicle from a yard.
“One lady was in her house. She has a dog, and she has a sensor light. And (thieves) came in the middle of the day … and quietly pushed her pickup out of the driveway,” Barker said, adding the truck was later found, wrecked.
Amaral noted the holiday season is prime time for thieves seeking to steal shoppers’ holiday cheer, and law-abiding citizens need to take note of their surroundings at all times and not “be an easy target.”
“We just need people to be aware,” he said. “Don’t park in isolated areas. Even at home, lock your car doors, take your keys inside.
“Don’t think that just because you’re home, something can’t happen. If you have a gate, close your gate. Those kinds of basic things will help significantly.”
The department’s Community Policing teams can assist public members wanting to increase their ability to fight back against becoming a victim of crime. Call (808) 961-2350 in East Hawaii and (808) 326-4646, ext. 259 in West Hawaii.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.
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