Wednesday’s theft of an SUV with two children inside is drawing lots of concern from people who live in Pearl City.
Police say a mother left her two children in the car with the engine running and the suspect took the vehicle, but ditched it about a mile away. The kids were left safely inside.
The man, who was caught on surveillance video carrying what appeared to be a large garbage bag, has yet to be found.
Residents say that part of the island seems to be a target for car thieves, due to easy access to the freeways for a quick getaway, and open air garages that make it easy for thieves to plan the crime.
Neighbors are still in disbelief, not just because a mother left her two children in the car with the engine running, but by how fast the thief took advantage of the opportunity.
“It’s just surprising. You would think that it’s okay to leave them for a quick minute when they know better, but it’s still pretty scary to think that somebody can do that so quick,” said resident Lyann Chun.
Car thefts and break-ins are all too familiar with Pearl City residents.
Victim Judy Hamane says her vehicle “was actually taken from the parking lot and then it was dropped off about a block and half away with everything out of it, of course.”
According to Honolulu Police Dept.’s Crime Mapping website, there have been 62 car break-ins or car thefts in the past three months within a mile from Kamahao St. where Thursday’s car was stolen.
It’s a crime trend that state Rep. Gregg Takayama (D-Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades) knows from experience. His car was stolen from his yard in the middle of the night.
“For someone to have your car stolen in the middle of the night is traumatic, but I can’t imagine having your car stolen with kids in it,” he said.
Takayama said Pearl City is centrally located around the freeways and Kamehameha Hwy., which is ideal for thieves. It’s also a moderately older neighborhood with plenty of open air garages that can allow thieves to case the area.
“(There are) very few fences or walls between neighbors, so I think that may be a contributing factor,” Takayama said.
Takayama said more residents are building fences to make it harder for thieves, as well as car alarms and devices that lock the steering wheel.
The chairman of the Pearl City neighborhood board said he will ask HPD to increase patrols.
Also, the legislature passed a bill this past session that would make it tougher for repeat offenders by sentencing them to a mandatory one-year prison sentence. It is currently waiting for the governor’s approval.