100 papaya trees slashed in Puna

Big Island Papaya Farm

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Criminals have struck a Big Island papaya farm for the second time in two years.

On Friday morning, 100 papaya trees were found chopped down in Puna.

“It was like one person took a row and four or five rows, and just whacked them. So they all fell, very similarly,” said Peter Houle, property owner and board member of Hawaii Papaya Industry Association.

Big Island police say the trees ranged in height between three and four feet, and were worth $3,000.

The property owner says the trees were very visible from the road.

“You know, it’s just heart-wrenching to see this happen twice,” Houle said.

In July 2011, about 3,000 papayas on five acres were destroyed on the same farm leased by the Bernardo family.

At that time, 10 acres of papaya trees were destroyed, in three adjoining fields, each belonging to a separate owner. No arrests were made.

“I know there’s a lot of speculation, we’re hearing a lot of that. At this time, there’s no evidence to point in either direction as far as the motives behind these incidence,” said Capt. Samuel Jelsma with the Hawaii Police Department.

Police say whoever did this could be charged with criminal property damage. It’s a felony, which means the criminal could face fines and jail time.

The property owner isn’t taking any more chances and will tighten security on the farm, but will not say how.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact Officer Cala Arnold at Pahoa Police at (808) 965-2716 or CrimeStoppers at (808) 961-8300.

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