HONOLULU (KHON2) — Three Hawaii Island residents have been arrested and charged with theft, accused of stealing lychee from a farm in Hilo.
Police said it happened on Thursday, June 9.
Hawaii Island police said a DLNR officer spotted four people crossing the Wailuku river, carrying a large bag on their backs. According to investigators, 150 pounds of lychee fruit estimated to be worth more than $1,200 was later found in their vehicle.
Krislyn Palama, Jan Loren Aguinaldo, and Duston Bishop have been charged with criminal trespassing and theft. The fourth person ran off. Palama and Aguinaldo remain in custody. Bishop was released after posting bail.
Local farms are already dealing with pandemic recovery, skyrocketing costs, and now thieves.
It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time,” said Troy Keolanui, O.K. Farms owner and operator.
O.K. Farms isn’t the only ones being targeted. The farm says its neighbors have also felt the impacts.
They’re actually cutting down trees probably with a battery powered chainsaw and just eliminating trees. So it’s easy for them to steal and they can steal quickly. The farm loses a tree that’s worth thousands of dollars and could live for decades,” said Keolanui.
The Hilo farm spent big bucks to put fencing up to protect produce, but without success. Others are scheduling workers overnight to spot thieves in action.
“To be out in all hours of the night to confront people that’s in your orchard that may be armed, it’s not part of the deal of farming. It’s not what I signed up for really and it’s becoming more and more part of the job,” Keolanui said.
Hawaii Island police are working with farm owners to stop the thefts, but there are some challenges
One problem with agriculture theft is sometimes it’s hard to recognize, because if they only take a small amount of produce or product, the farmers may not necessarily notice that it’s actually missing,” said Chris Fukumoto of Hawaii Police Department
Police believe thieves steal the produce to resell. Stealing the produce carries a heavy penalty and police say the same goes for anyone buying the stolen goods.
“Knowingly buying agricultural product without the certificate of ownership could constitute a criminal offense for theft in the second degree as well,” Fukumoto said.
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Farm owners are encouraged to report any thefts to the police department’s non-emergency line.