KAILUA, Hawaii (KHON2) — Kailua resident and kumu hula Aulii Mitchell watched in shock as a burglar walked into his home in broad daylight and stole a prized ukulele on Thanksgiving Day. CrimeStoppers urges residents to be vigilant this holiday season.

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“You hear about these things but they never happen to you, because it does something to you psychologically,” Mitchell said.

He said he always left his doors open and unlocked to get a nice breeze through his studio.
Mitchell and one of his students were making kapa on Nov. 26, Thanksgiving afternoon. They were less than six-feet away from the door when a man barged in around 2 p.m.

“We’re sitting right there. And he (the burglar) startled. But then he looked to his right and he saw the ukulele hanging on the wall. He grabbed the ukulele, stuck it on his arm, and he ran out the house, like a flash,” Mitchell explained.

Mitchell said he chased after him but the suspect took off on a moped.

Mitchell called the police and reported the crime, but could not stop thinking about what had happened.

He said he had a difficult time sleeping that night, and really wanted to get the custom made Koaloha ukulele back.

“I got up in the morning followed my gut, got on the bike and went to Kailua town, like I normally do my bike ride in the morning and heard an ukulele playing at a park.”

That is when he said he saw the suspect with his ukulele.

“I was pretty much disguised on my bike with my helmet and mask on. I cruised by, looked sideways at him, and went to Times to call police,” Mitchell explained.

Mitchell said police arrived and arrested the suspect. He said his ukulele was damaged, but he was happy to get it back.

“He tried to disguise it with stickers and filed the inside of the hole under the strings,” he said.

The entire incident left him shaken.

“It really changes your mindset,” Mitchell said

He said now he locks his gate and his front door, and he is getting a security camera.

Sgt. Chris Kim of CrimeStoppers said with the holidays coming up, people need to be more vigilant.

The first tip Kim offered was always lock doors and windows, no matter what time it is.

“If they’re at home, they’re thinking, if I’m at home, then there’s no way that someone’s going to come into my house because they’ll be too scared. Well, they’re wrong,” Kim said.

His second piece of advice was to not leave valuables near the door.

“If you’re gonna have some type of memorabilia, some heirlooms hanging in your living room, find some way to secure it. So it’s not that easy for someone steal, for someone to walk in, and walk right out.”

Kim also suggested getting a security camera as a deterrent. He admitted they do not always stop criminals, but they are helpful in identifying them and can help get stolen property back.

Removing bushes or trees from blocking the view of your front door area can also deter criminals, according to Kim.

“We recommend that just clearing up around your doorway to the point where your neighbors would be able to see any strangers walking to your door trying to break in,” Kim said.

Porch pirates — thieves that steal mail and other boxes delivered to homes — are also a big problem during the holidays.

Kim suggests specifying delivery instructions on orders to avoid having them left in the open on your doorstep.

“Maybe you have a lockbox or some other hidden area you can specify to have the package delivered to…And build a rapport with your neighbor so that if you’re not home, they can leave the item with your neighbor,” Kim said.

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