HONOLULU(KHON2) — A local retail expert said theft and shoplifting appear to be on the rise, and many of suspects are younger than you’d think.

People are returning to their everyday lives now that pandemic shut-downs and store closures are behind us.

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But that means crime is also increasing.

According to Honolulu Police Department’s 2020 Crime report, juvenile arrests dipped in 2020.

The 2021 statistics aren’t in yet but Retail Merchants of Hawaii President Tina Yamaki said it’s clear theft is on the rise again.

“Once the store is open, we started to see a lot of grab and goes, a lot of people shoplifting, a lot of the same suspects coming back into the stores again and lifting things. It’s sad. “

And she said many of the criminals are younger than you’d think.

“Everybody thinks people who are shoplifting they’re adults,” she explained. “That’s not really the case. What we’re seeing with organized retail crime is kids that are as young as an elementary to intermediate school.”

According to police on March 15th, a 15-year-old boy attempted to steal more than $27,000 in jewelry from a store at a popular shopping center.

“There was a theft that happened at one of the stores at Waikele (Premium Outlets),” Yamaki said. “And there was a lot of jewelry that was stolen. My understanding is the suspect has been apprehended.”

Yamaki said she’s happy that Honolulu’s prosecuting attorney seems more willing to prosecute these types of cases. Now it’s up to judges to ensure the penalty fits the crime. Because she said without adequate consequences juvenile offenders are likely to re-offend.

Places like the YMCA have intervention programs to help steer at-risk youth in the right direction.

YMCA of Honolulu Kalihi Branch executive director Kyle Ishizaka said they provide programs in high schools and middle schools across the island.

“We do intervention prevention as well as treatment for substance abuse, along with outreach to at risk youth in the schools,” Ishizaka explained.

He said it’s a safe, supervised place for teens to hang out after school, during intercession and summertime.

“I think that’s where kids are most at risk to get in trouble is during those times where they’re not supervised.”

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Ishizaka said they will reopen their drop-in program and late night basketball program this summer.