Big Island police remind lava evacuees to report suspected looting

Updated: Jul. 11, 2018 at 10:38 PM HST
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PUNA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - With concerns over looting growing on Hawaii island, police are urging homeowners and renters within the eruption zone to report apparent looting as soon as possible.

This comes a day after Hawaii News Now reported the Noni Farms home of Nat Tomaselli was spared by lava, but ransacked by thieves.

"I can't believe they did this," Tomaselli said, through tears. "They tore my place apart. I'm missing all my beds."

Since early May, Big Island police have received reports of 15 burglarized homes within the evacuation area.

They believe some thieves are being escorted into Leilani Estates with residents.

Police also say others could be using the Pohoiki boat ramp to get in and out.

"We haven't had anyone actually come forward and specifically give us solid information that they have seen this or know specifics about that this is occurring. People have just, I guess, come to the assumption that that is where the entry and exit point is for the area for large items," Maj. Samuel Jelsma  of the Hawaii County Police Department said.

Under emergency rules now in place for much of lower Puna, any looting or vandalism during the eruption will be treated as a felony.

"If the person doesn't even call the police and doesn't make a report, then we really have nothing to go on. So you know our advice is make the call, you may not think something's gonna happen, often times something happens," Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth said.

To report suspected looting or vandalism in the lava evacuation zone, call police.

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