Big Island homes burglarized during tsunami evacuation

Big Island homes burglarized during tsunami evacuation

KEAUKAHA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some Big Island families became burglary victims during the recent tsunami scare. They obeyed the evacuation order and left their homes, but now police are investigating several break-ins on the same street in Hilo.

Once authorities sounded the alarm on Saturday night, families in coastal communities left their homes for higher ground. They never imagined that someone would take advantage of the tsunami threat.

"It's a horrible feeling to feel that someone came into your home when you were not expecting them," said one burglary victim who didn't want to be identified. "It's sad that people feel that this is how they're going to get forward in life by taking other people's items."

Police are looking for clues in eight break-ins on Kalanianaole Avenue in Keaukaha.

"They ran in, grabbed what they could, but they were still targeting. They were targeting jewelry and prescription medication and other kinds of valuables ... bras and underwear," said the female victim.

During the tsunami emergency, 830 people headed to 17 shelters across the Big Island. Keaukaha residents are now reluctant to leave if there is another evacuation order.

"I would feel very leery about evacuating. I would actually, if they say six-foot wave next time, I'm staying home. If they say 20-foot wave and it looks like Japan coming, I'm out of here," said Moody.

Some burglary victims are taking steps to increase security at their homes, but they're still concerned about crime during the next potential crisis.

"How can we feel safe when we leave our house to respect a mandatory evacuation when we're not certain if there's going to be very strong police presence throughout the whole time?" wondered the burglary victim.

Police are investigating each break-in as a "burglary of a dwelling during a civil defense emergency," which is a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Authorities ask that anyone with information about these burglaries (or anyone who didn't evacuate and saw suspicious persons in the area) call Sergeant James Correa at 961-2289 or the Police Department's non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who wish to remain anonymous can call CrimeStoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona.

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