Police urge vigilance after violent purse snatching, uptick in robberies in Waikiki

Published: Nov. 23, 2019 at 2:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A warning from Honolulu police: If you’re going out in Waikiki, watch your back.

Sgt. Chris Kim said criminals are "definitely scouting."

"You know they’re driving around, they’re scouting for easy targets,” Kim said.

A violent purse snatching last week underscores the threat ― and is one of six robberies that happened in the state’s top tourist destination in the span of nine days.

On Nov. 15, a woman was dragged to the ground by a man who ripped her bag off of her shoulder at the corner of Liliuokalani Avenue and Ala Wai Boulevard.

Surveillance video reveals the robbery was actually a well-orchestrated crime.

A camera facing Liliuokalani Avenue shows a vehicle passing three women who are standing on the sidewalk. Once the SUV makes a turn onto Ala Wai Boulevard, the driver pulls off to the side of the road into the bike lane. A man can then be seen exiting the vehicle.

He crosses the street, making his way back towards the women and walks past them on the sidewalk.

A few moments later, he can be seen on another camera waiting in the doorway of a nearby building.

Once traffic clears, the robber makes his move, snatching the woman’s bag before darting across the Ala Wai Boulevard to escape in that waiting vehicle.

“This isn’t their first rodeo,” said Kim.

The sergeant confirms HPD is investigating several robberies in Waikiki and Kakaako similar to this one.

“You can tell by their demeanor that he definitely knew what he was doing," Kim said. "He saw them off to the side. Kind of scouted the area. Made sure the coast was clear before he did it.”

HPD records show that since June, Waikiki has averaged about six robberies a month.

But so far this November, there has been a 50% increase ― with six of those crimes happening in the span of nine days.

Shawn Essig was robbed on Nov. 11 in Waikiki.

The 53-year-old elevator mechanic is staying in Waikiki for work and admit’s he’s a creature of habit.

He told HNN, “I’ve been here three weeks and I do the same routine every day.”

“I go get dinner. I have a couple drinks. I go back to my room,” said Essig.

Now he questions if that’s why he was targeted.

“I was walking down this sidewalk on Paoakalani right here,” he said. “I don’t know if they were following me. I don’t remember hearing anything. I just remember getting knocked to the ground.”

When Essig got up his wallet and two cell phones were gone.

He said, “I was really confused and kind of dazed.”

Nearly two weeks later, gashes on his knees and elbows are a constant reminder of the attack. He says the whole experience has him reconsidering whether to accept another job here.

“They’re asking me to come back and I’m not sure that I will,” said Essig.

Amid the uptick in crime, HPD is asking the public to be mindful of who’s around them, especially as the holidays get into full swing.

“If somebody walks past you, just keep an eye on them,” said Kim. “See where they’re going. Are they doubling back? Are they coming back towards you? And for what reason?”

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