Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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Thieves strike evacuated Hilo neighborhood

By Leila Fujimori


Eight houses in a tsunami inundation zone in Hilo were wiped out, not by a tsunami, but by burglars Saturday night after residents had evacuated.

"It was really peculiar," said resident Don Moody, whose Keau­kaha home was spared. "My neighbor on one side lost anything gold and sparkly — jewelry, women's underwear, lingerie, swimsuits and a bicycle. A couple houses over, they took a chain saw and a Weed Eater."

A woman whose home was hit said the burglary has left her unsettled. "My house smelled different. It just felt different," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.

The burglars stole her underwear and swimsuit, and she suspects they were searching for prescription medication because her medicine cabinet was ransacked. Another neighbor also had underwear stolen, and an elderly couple had jewelry stolen, she said.

"I'm very angry at the people looting our neighborhood, which is essentially what it is," she said. "It's taking advantage of a very vulnerable time, so I'm frustrated with them. But I'm frustrated with the lack of police presence."

Police are investigating the break-ins as a "burglary of a dwelling during a civil defense emergency," a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years' imprisonment, police said.

Police Capt. Robert Wagner said "smaller items" were taken from eight houses on Kalanianaole Avenue, but declined to elaborate. "We have some leads that we're following up on," he said. "It's typical to get fingerprints."

Moody said when he arrived home at 3:30 a.m., "I didn't see one police car. I thought they didn't protect this area. It probably happened between 9:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.," during the evacuation.

Wagner said, "The only thing we could do is to be in that area, but it's an evacuation zone. If we're not there, look what happens. It's not so much us not being there. It's everybody not being there. The public has more eyes than we do."

Police ask anyone with information to call Sgt. James Correa at 961-2289 or the police non-emergency line at 935-3311.

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