Agriculture Crimes on the Rise on the Windward Side

Bananas are an easy target for agriculture thieves hitting the Windward side.
Bananas are an easy target for agriculture thieves hitting the Windward side.

KAILUA-KANEOHE (KHNL) - Thieves are going bananas on Oahu's Windward side. Police say agricultural thefts are escalating. Now, they're asking for your help in battling the problem.

Police say the banana patches in Windward Oahu are being hit hard. There have been ten thefts reported so far this year.

The warning signs are clear: stealing bananas is a crime. Yet, thieves are victimizing the farms along Likelike Highway at an alarming rate.

"Towards the end of January, beginning of February, we saw a remarkable, a large surge in the thefts, to the point where it's about three or four times weekly," Det. John McCarthy, H.P.D. Kailua-Kaneohe District, said.

Police stepped up their efforts in the area. They say they caught three people red-handed last week.

"Our patrol officers stopped a vehicle, on the side of the road of the H-3 there, and discovered bananas in it," McCarthy said.

Officers arrested Cyril Flores Junior, Chaum Grinnell and Billy Jo Epling on suspicion of theft. Investigators believe the suspects chopped down trees for easier access to the fruit.

"We're starting to see where property damage goes hand in hand with the theft," McCarthy said. "And in other cases in the past, we've had crimes of violence or threats."

Despite the arrests, bananas keep slipping away at an average of 20 to 30 bunches per hit.

"That's quite a bit. You're talking about three, 400 dollars, maybe, at a time," McCarthy said. "And when you're talking 10 times this year, you're talking several thousand dollars. These are mom and pop operations that need to make a living."

Police say drivers passing by the farms can help.

"If the public sees anybody stopping along these banana patches and loading up bananas - especially at two in the morning, there's no such thing as night farming. Give us a call," McCarthy said.

Officers also booked Billy Jo Epling on suspicion of drug offenses, and Cyril Flores Junior on warrants.

All three suspects were released, in the banana theft case, pending further investigation.