HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Honolulu Police Department (HPD) said it has seen an increase in car break-ins when compared to 2020. HPD is warning people to be cautious and take precautions when it comes to securing their cars as auto and catalytic converter thefts continue to be a significant problem.

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“We’ve noticed an uptick in auto theft in which the keys are taken with the vehicle, so that means spare keys being left in the car, keys being left in lock boxes attached to the vehicle,” said Lt. Christian Trent with the HPD Auto Theft Detail.

He said, experienced thieves look for those lock boxes and already know how to break into them.

Lt. Trent said, another big thing they see is people leaving their keys onshore when they head out to the beach.

“People think that they can, you know, hide their key in a towel or shirt,” said Lt. Trent. “What they don’t know is that there are people that actually hang out on the beach and are watching for people like them and then they become easy targets. By the time they come out of the water, they find that their vehicle is missing.”

Lt. Trent said, thieves often steal cars to break them apart and sell the parts or to resell them. Thieves also use them for joyrides and in other crimes.

He said, the thefts are happening island-wide and it is hard to say which cities are hit the hardest, but there is one thing they have noticed.

“The areas that tend to get hit more tend to be the remote areas places like the lookout. You know, certain places that may not have security or as much police presence.”

Lt. Christian Trent, HPD Auto Theft Detail

One tip, he said, is to look for broken glass on the ground when planning to park. It may signal that a theft took place there recently.

It is not just car thefts and break-ins happening, however. John Starkey, owner of Starkey’s Auto Repair, said he is seeing more people come in for catalytic converter repairs.

“Most of the cars coming in are Priuses. We’re seeing some Honda Elements come in, mostly the Honda product line, and some of the Toyota product line,” said Starkey.  

He said, Toyota Priuses have been particularly targeted both locally and nationally.

“The criminals know how much they’re going to get for each catalytic converter based on what car it comes off of. And unfortunately the poor Prius owners out there, they have the one that has the most precious metals in it.”

John Starkey, Starkey’s Auto Repair Owner

He said, some of these repairs can cost between $400 and $2,700.

“Criminals are cutting those wires, rather than unbolting the thing, because they don’t want to take time, they cut them, adding cost to the catalytic converter repair,” said Starkey.

Police recommend parking vehicles in a place with lots of foot traffic or in a secured garage. Police say, call 911 immediately if these thefts occur.

More tips to keep cars safe from thefts can be found on HPD’s twitter below:

Lt. Trent recommends letting the police know what time the car or items in the car may have been stolen and where the car was last seen when reporting a theft.

He said, look around for witnesses or potential cameras in the area that could have caught what happened. People should also let police know where the location of the car has moved if they have a tracker on their stolen car.