By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Police say there’s been an increase in burglaries in the Waiakea Houselots area of Hilo since May and have sent a message to warn the neighborhood’s residents using the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency’s automated telephone notification system.
“This is the first time we’ve used it to get information out to people in a specific area,” Lt. John Briski of Hilo Community Policing said Friday. “We don’t want to cause a panic about anything, but we want to inform people about what is going on in their neighborhood. When we found out we could do this, we thought this would be a good way to get information to a specific area. Sometimes, you just miss people other ways.”
Briski said the Civil Defense notification system calls land-line telephones in a specific area, which is determined by putting a map up on a screen at Civil Defense headquarters.
“We did open up the range a little bit from the Waiakea Houselots area to include all of Panaewa, also, to the Puna border,” Briski said. He said there were “a few glitches” in the system but added that it worked well and police will likely use it in the future for similar notifications.
“Being a prior (community policing officer) in Puna, I think the numbers of burglaries (in Hilo) may have gone up,” he said. “… We have burglaries that happen; it’s unfortunate. We have to respond to them as quickly as we can and this is one of the new ways to respond to them.”
Calls made Friday to Capt. Mitch Kanehailua and Detective James Correa of Criminal Investigations seeking the number of burglaries, items taken and their estimated worth were not returned. However, an unofficial count of burglary reports on police logs between May 1 and June 7 show five burglaries, one attempted burglary, three thefts and one robbery report in the Waiakea Houselots area. Unofficially, there were 37 burglary reports for all of Hilo, including Waiakea Houselots, during that time period.
Asked if he thought the economy accounted for the apparent spike in burglaries, Briski replied: “I think Hilo is a small town with growing pains.”
“We have influences all around the world that we didn’t have before,” he said. “The world is a smaller place now. The economy is a part of it, of course, but we can’t blame it all on the economy. We’re just having a changing culture and changing times. That’s just my opinion, of course.”
According to a written police statement, burglars entered homes through windows to steal jewelry and other items. Police are advising residents in the area to reduce their risk by locking all doors and windows when they leave home. Residents who wish to schedule an appointment for a free home security inspection may call the Community Policing office at 961-8121.
“With this message, we have had a response of people to come out, so we’re scheduling them very expeditiously so we can satisfy everybody’s needs for that,” Briski said.
Police ask anyone with information about these burglaries to call Correa at 961-2289. Those who anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.