Weekend purse-snatching part of rising crime trend against visitors

Honolulu police said a female visitor from Japan was standing on the side of the road near Kualoa Ranch Sunday morning when someone inside a vehicle reached out for the woman’s purse.

The woman was subsequently dragged along and was later taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Zechariah Kanealii-Goins
Zechariah Kanealii-Goins

Police arrested two suspects, a juvenile, and 19-year-old Zechariah Kanealii-Goins, who police say was driving the vehicle. Goins was charged with robbery Monday and his bail has been set at $25,000.

KHON2 learned that the number of purse-snatching cases is on the rise.

Former Honolulu city prosecutor Peter Carlisle remembers the mid ’90s as a time when such crimes were common. “A Japanese tourist was walking along, and there was a drive-by purse snatching. This lady was hooked onto the purse. She was dragged along, and at some point, someone got run over.”

He said this type of crime doesn’t happen as often anymore, but the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii said it’s on the rise. “Just looking at our data from this year, to last year, we do see an increase in thefts and crimes of this nature,” said Jessica Lani Rich, society CEO and president.

In 2014, VASH helped 12 visitors who had their purses stolen. That number is already up to 15 so far this year, but that’s just the cases involving tourists.

Last year, a purse snatching in Waikiki claimed the life of an Oahu woman. Josiah Figueroa is now awaiting trial on manslaughter charges after 52-year-old Jullie Stephenson died from her injuries.

The Honolulu Police Dept. said to prevent further crimes like this from happening, keep the following in mind:

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Keep your bags away from pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
  • Property can be replaced, but lives cannot.
  • If you’re going to travel in an unfamiliar area, stay in a group.
  • Try to avoid dimly lit or dark areas. If you have to travel in those areas, check to see if a security guard can travel with you.
  • If you find yourself becoming a victim of a crime, be a good witness. Try to get a good description of the suspect(s), the vehicle used, the license plate number, and the direction the suspect(s) fled in.

Former HPD chief Lee Donohue said it’s gotten easier to prosecute cases involving these crimes. “If it’s crimes against tourists, the state can bring back the witnesses at the state’s expense. We didn’t have that before. It was one of the hang-ups in the past.”

But whether the victim is a tourist or a resident, justice can be served.  “All of it depends on the quality of the evidence,” said Carlisle.

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