Police are investigating after a man reportedly stole a vehicle with two young children inside.
Authorities say the children’s mother left them in her 2014 Honda CR-V with the engine running while she retrieved something from their townhome on Kamahao St. in Pearl City.
Police say she had walked away from her car for less than a minute when the thief allegedly drove off with the SUV.
“She was crying falling down on her knees, everything. I would be crying too if my kids were gone,” said witness Corey Dennison. “I think she just got home and I guess she walked to her unit and she came back and her car was gone.”
The suspect pulled over a half-mile away on Hoomoana St. and ran off, leaving the vehicle with the children still safely inside.
Surveillance video from across the street shows a man exiting the vehicle carrying what appears to be a large garbage bag.
Honolulu police said the car was located within five minutes after officers spoke with the mother and they drove her to her car. She was clearly distraught even after being reunited with the infant girl and the young boy.
Neighbors said the suspect headed toward Waimano Home Rd. Where he went from there is hard to say, but a police helicopter was called in to help with the search.
“(The helicopter was flying) kind of long, maybe 15 minutes, but it stayed here. That’s what made me kind of worried what’s going on around here,” said resident Collette Chang-Hasegawa.
The suspect is still on the loose. He’s described as a man in his 20s, 5-foot-9 and about 150 pounds.
Police investigators processed the car looking for fingerprints and other evidence. Shortly after that, the whole family was reunited and drove home.
Area residents say let this be a lesson for all parents out there about leaving kids in the car “because you never know who’s watching, who’s around, so you’ve just got to be safe,” said Chang-Hasegawa. “It’s better to be safe than sorry. Good thing nothing happened to those kids.”
When a child is missing, police can trigger the Maile Amber Alert, which was put in place in 2002.
That didn’t happen Wednesday because officers found the car and the kids safely inside shortly after the mother reported them missing.
There are three things needed in order to trigger an alert: the child must be younger than 17 years old, there must be a confirmation that the health and safety of the child is endangered, and there must be some way to identify the suspected abductor and the description of the vehicle involved.
The attorney general’s office has strong words for those who would leave a child alone in a car, even for a few minutes.
“Our message would be don’t do that, because an abduction can occur at any time and when you least expect it,” said First Deputy State Attorney General Russell Suzuki. “It can occur, so be aware of that and don’t put your child or yourself in that situation.”