LIHUE — A recent spike in burglaries around Kauai seems to be declining, police say, but victims say they fear thieves are spreading into more neighborhoods.
According to statistics on the Kauai Police Department website and compiled by RaidsOnline, there have been 38 residential burglaries in Wailua so far this year, compared to 31 in 2012 and 41 in 2011. Kapaa has had 89 this year, which passes the 2012 mark of 55, and is on the way to reach the 104 mark set in 2011.
There have been four arrests and convictions involving eight Wailua and Kapaa burglary cases in 2012 and 2013.
“When there were arrests after a rash of burglaries in Wailua, the suspects were forthcoming and talked about seeing open windows and doors, spare keys under the doormat, and ignition keys left in the cars,” KPD community relations officer Sgt. Roderick Green said.
At a meeting in Kalaheo, several residents reported being burglary victims for the first time. When Green asked how many of them were practicing the same lack of home security, some reluctantly raised their hands.
“They realize now that they can’t do that anymore,” Green said.
Residential burglaries in communities include:
• 66 residential burglaries so far this year in the Kalaheo area, as of July 5. They numbered 24 in 2012 and 23 in 2011.
• 30 burglaries in Hanapepe so far in 2013, compared to 23 in 2012 and 28 in 2011. The numbers include the Eleele, Koloa and the Lawai area as well.
• 92 reported burglaries in Princeville and Kilauea areas, so far in 2013. This compares to 71 in 2012 and 49 in 2011.
• The 86 in Hanalei-Haena have increased by nearly 30 over the previous year’s numbers.
• Anahola has had 26 burglaries this year, already surpassing last year’s 18.
Green said arrests have been made in the South Shore burglaries. The best thing residents can do is to make their property less vulnerable, he said.
“We are continuing our investigation and that is all we can do at this point,” Green said. “We stress the importance of Neighborhood Watch and the importance of community.”
A Kalaheo resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said some who attended the South Shore meeting had a good idea about who might be committing the burglaries. He said they were frustrated to hear that police needed more proof, and were instead encouraged to form a watch group and call police with information that might help the investigations.
“Most of the people present said they already had a Neighborhood Watch for some time in Kalaheo, and that it hasn’t deterred the burglaries,” he said. “No one was interested in hearing about that.”
The Kalaheo man said his home was broken into twice six months ago, resulting in a stolen laptop, binoculars and a power saw. The break-ins were the first in his 15 years on-island.
“This is particularly bad. I haven’t had this problem before,” he said. “The police came promptly when I called them and they looked for fingerprints but did not find anything that could be used. The items never turned up as far as I know.”
The break-in occurred from the back of the home. He has since trimmed the bushes and installed motion sensor lighting.
After talking to other victims, he said it appears that homes and businesses adjacent to vacant lots are hit more frequently. People want to know if it will take sophisticated surveillance cameras, guard dogs, burglar alarms or hiring their own security firm to stop the break-ins.
“People have increased surveillance and one person caught someone on their camera in the process of burglarizing their home,” he said.
People are always encouraged to have as much security as needed, Green said.
“Security cameras are obviously a good idea, and so is better lighting and locking your doors,” he said.
South Shore resident Cheri Gienger told The Garden Island in an email that a burglary is like an assault in the amount of physical pain and anguish in the sense of the personal violation it brings.
“We never used to lock our doors,” Gienger said. “We never feared that someone would walk in and help themselves to our personal items. We never had to come home and be afraid that a window would be knocked out.”
Gienger said she is frustrated that police were not able to hold the individual suspected of burglarizing her Kauai home. She learned that the suspect has 10 prior arrests for similar crimes.
“Something needs to be done, she said. “Property owners need to be protected.”
Green said he understands that communities are frustrated and want to know what the police can do. He explained the community role is essential in helping to create safe neighborhoods.
The concept of security is enhanced when neighbors watch out for one another, he said. It is the neighbors who get a sense of when something is not right, or notice the difference between a resident’s car or someone casing the area.
The police will train neighbors how to be good observers and what to look for that is important. Too many people talk themselves out of making the call, Green said, when they should call as soon as they notice something.
“The worst thing someone can do is to assume that someone else will call,” Green said. “Many people don’t want to be the person to call and then find out that it turns out to be nothing. But the police would rather come and find nothing than to find out a person has been victimized.”
• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or by emailing email@example.com.