Police investigating coffee thefts on the Big Island

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Police are investigating coffee thefts on the Big Island, after hundreds of pounds of coffee were stolen from secure containment areas.

One farm that was hit, Hala Tree Farms said they had 15 to 16 bags stolen, which each contained about 8- pounds of un-milled coffee beans.

“Somebody came, opened the container. It was locked, so they broke the lock, and they stole about 12-hundred pounds,” said Jean Orlowski, Hala Tree Coffee owner.

He said that’s about $40,000 dollars worth of product now gone.

“We now need to be very careful on our expenses and everything we do,” said Orlowski. “We need to pay not only our people, but also everything that we do on the field, meaning fertilizing, so it’s a huge impact for us.”

It also lessens their stock for the season, especially since they can’t grow more coffee until July or August.

“When we lose those 1200 pounds, well it’s a loss for us. And not only a loss, but you know we don’t have no coffee until next August at least, August, September,” said Orlowski.

The theft is not just affecting Hala Tree Coffee, Roger Kaiwi, president of the Kona Coffee Council said they’ve seen multiple farms hit by thieves, and it may be because of the current value of a coffee.

“Farm values are at an all time high. The price of (coffee) cherry has risen this year to $2.30 on the street,” said Kaiwi. “Anytime you rate the pinnacle such as that, you’re going to get illegal activity.”

He said if the thefts continue, customers may see less local grown organic coffee like the ones Hala Tree Coffee offers in stores.

“Directly to the consumers you’re looking at an industry that doesn’t produce a whole lot of organic coffee,” said Kaiwi.

He said even one theft is a huge loss.

“That’s roughly a good size of the organic market because there’s not really a ton of organic coffee out there,” said Kaiwi. But more importantly for a small farmer, that is a tremendous blow. That could be his entire profit range and more. It could potentially put them out of business.”

Big Island police have sent out a media release. In it they state that agriculture theft can be classified as a felony. They have also highlighted ways to prevent such theft from occurring.

According to police, you can prevent a theft by:

  • Take an active involvement and establish communication within your community and neighborhood to help increase awareness.
  • Make it difficult for a thief or trespasser to enter onto, or steal from your property. This can include the use of:
    • Fencing, signage, motion sensors, ample lighting;
    • Security cameras, drones, or private security near high-value commodity areas. No-glow infrared flash trail cameras that are easily downloadable are recommended;
    • Dogs;
    • Strategically placed, and secured storage containers away from main roads or highways
  • Assist law enforcement with the following, if applicable:
    • Report any/all suspicious activity to the Hawaii Police Department, (808) 935-3311;
    • Document the date, time, and location along with descriptions of the suspect(s) or vehicle(s) and direction of travel;
    • Provide photographs and/or video;
    • Request that the officer contacts you. Avoid remaining anonymous if you are willing to;
    • Provide the name of the vendor or business attempting to buy or sell suspected stolen goods
  • Establish a paper trail:
    • A seller or transporter of agricultural commodities weighing more than 200 pounds or valued at $100 or more, an ownership and movement certificate is required;
    • If you are a buyer of agricultural commodities, get to know your seller. Verify the seller’s ID ,and if the commodity is valued at $300 or more, the seller must provide you with a photocopy of a government-issued ID or license;
    • Provide a receipt for all transactions.

If you would like to report any suspicious activity or a crime, you can contact police at (808) 935-3311.

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