State steps up security after spike in car thefts at Honolulu airport parking structures

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Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 4:56 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 6:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Transportation says they’ve increased patrols in the garages at Honolulu’s airport after a sharp jump in car thefts.

Deputies and security guards are now patrolling on foot, bikes and motorized scooters.

In May, there were five cars stolen from the airport garages. In June, that went up to seven.

And so far in July, the figure has doubled to 14. Officials say 13 of those thefts are cars belonging to residents who rent out their vehicles using peer-to-peer sharing apps like Turo.

Lt. Bryan Marciel, of the Sheriff Airport Section, says those cars are often targeted ― especially if the owners use a lock box with the key inside.

Lock boxes are used by Turo hosts at HNL's garage
Lock boxes are used by Turo hosts at HNL's garage(None)

“These thieves are easily defeating these lock boxes, gaining access to the keys and jumping in your car and driving it away,” Marciel said.

A Turo host who HNN spoke with had his Lexus stolen from the parking garage this month. When it was recovered, it was stripped and trashed.

The state Department of Transportation said they cannot comment on the condition of the surveillance system at the airport for security reasons, but victims said video evidence was not available.

The surge in crime has also exposed another issue: DOT said hosts leaving their cars for renting visitors are breaking airport rules, even though they admit the law they’re citing is vague.

“If they’re conducting business here such as peer-to-peer car sharing, that’s considered a business so they should not be leaving their cars here for that purpose,” said Ross Higashi, state Transportation Department deputy director for Airports.

No one has been cited for violating that rule and it’s hard to prove since no financial transaction happens in the garage.

Hosts seem willing despite the risks, with a shortage of rental cars and an increase in visitor arrivals.

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