HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A 69-year-old woman who was attacked by a purse snatcher early Friday in Aiea is thanking police for catching her accused attacker quickly.
The man accused of sending her face first into the sidewalk is behind bars facing robbery charges.
Officers say they caught Kelly Maae-Vellez hiding out near a homeless camp on the Waimalu stream.
“I’m happy they caught him,” said Mary-Antonette Asuncion. “So there’s a lesson for these people.”
Quick action from HPD not only led to an arrest. Asuncion got back everything that was stolen.
During an interview at her home she showed off the bag that was stolen.
“It was ripped," she said, pointing at the strap. "They fixed it in the police station.”
Asuncion says it was snatched off her shoulder around 5 a.m.
She was walking to the bus stop at the corner of Hekaha and Moanalua when a man police identified as Maae-Vellez passed her on the sidewalk before latching onto her shoulder from behind.
“He came on this side. And started pulling on the strap here.” she said. “After the strap was ripped off I fell down. I was calling for help. For cars passing by. And not one of them stopped.”
According to police, over the past year the number of robberies on Oahu spiked 18% — from just over 800 in 2018 to more than 950 in 2019.
It’s one of the factors that prompted Police Chief Susan Ballard to shift some of her staff to increase the number of patrol officers on the road.
But she says one of they best ways to avoid becoming a victim is only carrying what you need.
“When you go out take your ID, take your credit card, take whatever minimal cash you’ll need. Don’t be taking a purse full of belongings. A purse full of money,” said Ballard.
Asuncion said she was well aware of the recent rash of purse snatchings and thought she was being safe. She’s glad the man accused of attacking her was arrested and looks forward to seeing him in court.
“Police asked me, ‘Do you want to press charges?’ I said yea,” Asuncion said.