HONOLULU (KHON2) — After multiple agricultural thefts ranging from coffee beans to papaya fruit, a new proposal in the Hawaii state legislature is looking to create an enforcement program to catch those thieves and vandals doing the crime.
“If we’re serious doubling food production and increasing our agriculture activity, then security is going to have to play a bigger role,” said Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, (D) Wahiawa, Mililani Mauka.
While there’s currently a pilot project on Maui and the Big Island to have an agricultural investigator work on these kinds of issues, Sen. Dela Cruz wants to create a whole new branch of law enforcement under the Department of Agriculture.
“The police has been really helpful. It’s just that they’re just so busy with a lot of other crime that they’re dealing with. They don’t have the staff to assist us in securing agriculture lands 24/7,” said Sen. Dela Cruz.
As for how much staff each island would have, he said that’s something they need to work on by hearing testimony.
“I think for central Oahu, they’re going to need a staff of at least a dozen people. They’re talking 42-hundred acres,” said Sen. Dela Cruz.
Modeled after the Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement, these officers would patrol farm lands and would be the sole agency to investigate agriculture thefts and vandalism.
“In speaking with some staff with the Dep of Ag and speaking with farmers, they’ve asked for this kind of system,” said Sen. Dela Cruz. “It needs to be officers familiar with the lay of the land, familiar with certain farmers familiar with where the hot spots are so that when there is crime, they can track it easy.”
Hala Tree Coffee owner, Jean Orlowski had 40-thousand dollars worth of coffee stolen a few months ago. He says they still don’t know who stole the coffee. But he hopes more enforcement officers will make a difference.
“We need to put pressure on whoever is buying this stolen coffee because there must be some buyer somewhere,” said Orlowski. “Everything will help. I think the more pressure we put on those buyers whoever they are, I think by having somebody dedicated, this person will really know the environment.”
As for how much this kind of enforcement program could cost, Sen. Dela Cruz said that’s something they’re still working on. Testimony for the bill will be heard next week Wednesday, Feb. 12.