Frequency of banana thefts is increasing
Police believe the thieves, who strike a few times a week, are reselling the produce
Kailua police are looking into a flurry of banana thefts within the last several weeks at Windward Oahu farms.
Though agricultural thefts happen often, investigators said thefts at banana farms in particular have escalated from two to three incidents a month to two to three a week so far this month.
In particular, police are looking at two incidents, one on Feb. 12 and another early yesterday. They involve thefts at banana farms along Likelike Highway on the Kaneohe side, where about 20 to 40 bunches of bananas were cut down and piled up in the back of trucks.
"On Feb. 12, patrolmen making routine checks found a truck on the side of the H-3 freeway by Likelike Highway at about midnight," Lt. John McCarthy said. "Besides the bananas in the back, they even had commercial boxes like you see in the store that have the word 'bananas' printed on the side.
"We might have caught them in the middle of it. ... We found more cut bunches of bananas in the patch that were just laying there on the ground, ready to be picked up."
Three men returned to the truck, and police arrested them but had to release them for a lack of evidence.
Then, at about 2 a.m. Thursday, police received an emergency call from a passing motorist about a truck stuck in the mud mauka of Likelike Highway, and when they went to investigate, found that it was also filled with banana bunches.
"The suspects in that case got away. ... We think they were hiding in the bushes at some point but fled and left the bananas in the truck," McCarthy said.
Police said banana thieves usually sell their stolen produce to retailers who are unaware that they are buying stolen goods.
McCarthy said he has never seen banana thefts occur with such frequency.
"They get hit steadily but it's really picked up," he said. "I've never seen it spike like this."