MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police officers have stepped up their presence in the Manoa area, incorporating plain clothes officers into routine patrols, after an up tick in reported crimes. According to the Department's spokesperson Michelle Yu, officers are also going door-to-door in the Manoa neighborhood handing out fliers to educate residents about how to report suspicious activity.
Lynn Barbasa's Manoa home has been broken into twice in the past two weeks.
"Manoa is an awesome neighborhood. I love it, except for this," said Barbasa. "We didn't think they'd be bold enough to come back."
The first time it happened, Barbasa got home from work to find her daughter's room had been ransacked.
"They took off the jalousie and the screen and just climbed in through the window," described Barbasa.
The second time, burglars popped the lock on the kitchen door and forced their way in.
"They've taken four laptops, two iPads, jewelry, money," said Barbasa, rattling off a list of the items her family members have discovered are gone.
Barbasa says brazen attempts happened during the day, while no one was home.
"I think the first time they came they kind of looked around before they left to see if there were other things that they could take," said Barbasa.
Barbasa's now considering getting alarms and security cameras installed – two tips she's learned from the local Neighborhood Watch team. The program was started in Manoa several years ago by State Representative Isaac Choy in partnership with the Honolulu Police Department.
"There was a rash of crime about two months ago, where in a period of 10 weeks – we had over 30 crimes reported. And after that meeting, they [HPD] patrolled the area more and the crime decreased, but all of a sudden in the last two weeks, it's picked up again," said Norman Wong, a Manoa Neighborhood Security Watch coordinator.
HPD records indicate there have been 12 burglaries, 54 thefts, 17 car break-ins and 6 car thefts in the past two weeks. That's highly unusual says Wong – and he should know, he's been compiling crime statistics in the area for nearly five years.
According to Wong, burglary, theft and car break-ins are the top three most reported crimes for Manoa. On average, three to four crimes are reported every week. But Wong says there were six crimes reported on just one day last week.
"There were six incidents on one day on that one area – Upper Manoa, East Manoa, Oahu Avenue and Kumu Street area," described Wong.
Wong says the best thing you can do to protect your home is introduce yourself to your neighbors—know who's coming and going and what cars they drive. And if you see something suspicious, report it.
"Don't let it happen to you before you become involved," cautioned Wong. "My home got broken into six years ago, they ransacked the whole house. I said, 'Oh boy!' It's an invasion of your privacy," explained Wong.
Wong encourages everyone to join their Neighborhood Security Watch team – and believes criminals are deterred just by knowing folks are keeping a look out.
"I haven't heard of any house being broken in that has these signs," said Wong, pointing to a Neighborhood Security Watch sign. "So I'd like to think it is helping the neighborhood."
Barbasa plans on joining the team. In the meantime, she hopes to get back the camera burglars stole with all her grandson's baby pictures on it.
"From when he was born to now, and I can't get that back because I did back it up on my laptop, but they took that too. So it's just more the sentimental stuff. Other things can be replaced – the bags, the Inno Tab – can be replaced, but the pictures and things like that cannot be replaced," explained Barbasa.
The Manoa Neighborhood Security Watch team meets regularly. Their next meeting is planned for Tuesday, July 16 at 6 p.m. in the Manoa Elementary School cafeteria. FBI Special Agent Bryan Tepper will make a presentation on preventing cyber crime.
If you're interested in joining or starting a neighborhood watch in your area, contact your local HPD substation.