SOUTH KONA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kona police suspect a group of alleged crystal methamphetamine addicts are responsible for a recent spike in burglaries and auto thefts. The criminals are stealing cash, jewelry, electronics and weapons. Frustrated families pleaded for help from the authorities at a community meeting on Tuesday night.
"They took jewelry, money, coins that we had, loose change in piggy banks, our coin collection," said Honaunau resident Jon Sabati.
Sabati and his family returned to find their home ransacked after celebrating his daughter's birthday. Big Island police report the number of burglaries in the area more than doubled from July to August, jumping from 21 to 43 in North Kona and 6 to 15 in South Kona. Auto thefts in the region also rose to 46 for those two months, compared to 27 for the same period last year.
"All of a sudden, we got this crime spree going on where houses are being broken into, and it's almost the same method. They just crash the windows and come right in and tear the place apart looking for stuff they can turn over quickly, like jewelry," Sabati said.
Roughly 400 people showed up at a community meeting at Konawaena High School. Police created a task force to catch a group of 10 alleged crystal methamphetamine users accused of teaming up to form a burglary ring.
"They utilize each other's strengths and weaknesses to do what they do now which is burglarize homes," said Capt. Chad Basque of the Hawaii Police Department.
Police have arrested Joseph Narzisi, Joshua Watan and Ryan Hamar. The others are still on the loose.
"Most of the burglaries occur during the daylight hours when everyone is at work. There are some hints out there that these people frequent Facebook or Twitter or other social media accounts that people go on and actually tell them -- "Off to work today,'" explained Basque.
Residents want a plan from South Kona police to improve communication, response times and staffing.
"Let us know what to do and where you're at. We need the information so we can be informed and watch our backs and help you get your guy," said one frustrated resident.
"We have such a huge demographic in our district alone and there's only two police officers (per shift) assigned to our district which is pretty ridiculous and we are the only district on the Big Island that doesn't have a police station," Sabati said.