Retailers on guard as crooks ram vehicles into properties


POSTED: Sunday, November 08, 2009

It took only four minutes for thieves to crash a Jeep Wrangler into the glass doors of the Cyberlife PC store on Liliha Street and grab 20 laptop computers.

Owner Danny Lawson said security camera video showed the Jeep smashing through the door at about 2:40 a.m. on Sept. 14, and two men with flashlights on their foreheads scooping up the laptops.

“;I was beyond shocked that they would use a truck,”; he said.

Last week, thieves used a similar tactic to break into the Moanalua 99 shops in Mapunapuna, the second time within four months, the property's management said.

Police say there's been an alarming increase in these types of crimes and are investigating if some of them may be connected.

“;I haven't seen this many in this short a period of time,”; said Maj. William Chur, commander of the Kalihi district. “;We've very, very concerned.”;

There have been at least eight cases of thieves using trucks or other vehicles to crash through the entrance of businesses.

The most recent attempt happened Thursday at a convenience store on Sand Island Access Road, Chur said. Thieves rammed the front door, but couldn't get in and fled before police arrived.





Police are investigating at least eight recent crimes involving thieves using a truck or other vehicle to break through the front door of businesses and grab merchandise and cash and break into ATMs. The crimes include:
        » Thursday: Thieves tried to break through the front door of a convenience store on Sand Island.
        » Oct. 31-Nov. 1: A truck crashed through the entrance of Moanalua 99 in Mapunapuna, taking cash from an ATM and looting a cell phone store and jewelry shop. Store owners say a similar crime happened four months earlier.
        » Sept. 14: Four people used a Jeep to smash through the front door and take 20 laptops from the Cyberlife PC store in Liliha.
        » Aug. 6: Waipahu Festival Market Place; thieves smashed in and stole jewelry.
        » Aug. 8: Costco Waipio; thieves took jewelry.
        » August: Costco Iwilei; thieves boosted jewelry.
        » May: Thieves hit a McCully guitar shop.


“;Typically, they steal a car and use it to smash in,”; he said. More recently, thieves have been targeting businesses with ATMs on property, he said.

In August, two similar crimes happened within two days at the Waipio Costco and Waipahu Festival Market Place. The Iwilei Costco also was hit in August.

After last weekend's burglary at the former 99 Ranch Market property, police found the stolen truck used in the crime and part of the ATM burned in Waianae, said Lt. Sherman Chan of the Kalihi burglary theft detail.

Since the crime, the Moanalua 99 mall replaced the doors and added additional security measures, including placing a large planter in front of the mall entrance to deter thieves from trying to smash in the door again.

“;These guys need to be stopped,”; Chan said. “;We're taking it very seriously.”;

Chan said police are talking to vulnerable businesses about beefing up security.

Chan said the concrete posts fronting the store entrances at Best Buy and Sports Authority stores are examples of what retailers are doing to prevent these types of crimes.

Moanalua 99 management plans to install similar concrete posts at a cost of $5,000. They are also hiring security guards and plan to install a new camera system. Those costs, however, may be passed on the merchants and, in turn, raise prices for consumers.

Lawson, part-owner of Cyberlife PC, estimated the September break-in cost him about $15,000. His store was also burglarized in February and he is thinking about moving locations.

“;The second time, it took a big toll on us, which we're still trying to climb out of,”; he said. “;It's terrible.”;