A 3-year-old boy who was accidentally kidnapped Friday night clung to his mother before being whisked away from the media. A would-be auto thief took a gold four-door pickup truck with the boy still inside.

Police repeat warning
as another boy
found in stolen truck

A parent again finds his running
vehicle taken with his child

Kalihi police pleaded with parents never to leave kids and keys in vehicles after a thief stole a pickup truck Friday night with a 3-year-old boy inside.

It was the third time in five months that a vehicle was stolen in the Kalihi police district after a parent left the keys and an unattended child inside.

"No matter how short of a time you're going to leave that child, do not leave it in the car, please, please," said police Maj. Susan Ballard.

At about 8:30 p.m., a man left his 3-year-old son in the back seat of his gold four-door Toyota Tacoma pickup while he went to grab something to eat at Carl's Jr. at 2140 N. Nimitz Hwy. When he returned, the truck and the child had disappeared.

The would-be auto thief apparently discovered the child in a child safety seat in the back and abandoned the truck. The boy was recovered 45 minutes later on Salt Lake Boulevard, safe inside the abandoned vehicle. Police were still looking for a suspect last night.

"It's just a crime of opportunity," Ballard said, that takes seconds.


Why do parents not get the message?

"I think it's just human nature," Ballard said. She said parents may reason, "I'm only going to be in for two seconds. If my child is in a child safety seat in the back, it'd probably take me five to six minutes to take the child out, and another few minutes to strap him back in. By that time, I could be running in, grab something and run right back out again.

"But it only takes a second for someone to see you leave that car with the keys in the ignition, jump in, crank it up and they're gone," Ballard said. "That's all that it takes, less than 10 seconds for them to do that."

In all three cases, the suspects who took the cars have cared enough about the children in the car, and either called or notified someone, Ballard said.

Dennis Doctorello, an employee at Carl's Jr., said an anonymous caller phoned the store last night with the location of the stolen pickup truck.

Although police don't know who the caller was, "we can assume it was possibly the person who stole the car," Ballard said.

Doctorello said he saw the boy's father after the truck was stolen and "he was all sad, crying and upset."

As soon as police found the stolen pickup at about 9:15 p.m., the boy's parents were escorted by police to the location of the truck, where they were reunited with their child.

The parents said little to the media, but did say that their son was not crying when police found him and that he was okay. Police said the suspect faces arrest on suspicion of auto theft, but not kidnapping, since he apparently did not intend to take the child.

Police were in the process of activating the MAILE-AMBER alert when the child was found. Some TV stations broadcast on their own a bulletin that a child was missing.

In the other two recent cases, the drivers left their vehicles running with air conditioners on. The children were recovered uninjured right after the reported vehicle thefts.

On June 22, a woman left her 4-month-old girl in a gold pickup truck outside a 7-Eleven near Nuuanu Avenue and North Kuakini Street. That incident set off the state's first MAILE-AMBER alert.

The truck was found less than an hour later, with the baby still inside, in the parking lot of Red Hill's First Assembly of God on Moanalua Road by a DHL delivery driver. No arrest has been made in that case.

On March 29, a 5-month-old was in the back seat of a car running with its air conditioner outside the Golden Coin restaurant in Liliha. The vehicle and baby were recovered less than an hour later, not far from the restaurant.

In that case, 26-year-old Tema Tanu Tema is accused of stealing the car.

Reporter Mary Vorsino contributed to this story.

Honolulu Police Department

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