Kapa’a merchants go on offensive after repeated break-ins

KAPA’A — The Glass Shack was robbed for the second time in just over five weeks early Monday morning, bringing the total losses in merchandise and equipment to at least $3,000, owners of the Kapa’a store said.

Co-owners Andy Palmer and Kyle Doepke said last night only two glass roses were stolen, worth $100 each. But on March 17, at least two burglars cut the chains off the security gate and stole a laptop, the cash register and several pieces of custom-blown glass.

The break-in was the latest in a rash of incidents in the area.

A few weeks ago, both the M. Miura Store and Mermaids Cafe were hit. At the M. Miura Store, vandals broke the glass back door with a rock. At Mermaids Cafe, someone broke in and stole the cash register, with the damage and losses totaling $1,000.

Around that same time, one of Island Diva’s large storefront windows was broken with an unknown object. Owner Lisa Matsuda-Telles said the window cost “well over $3,000” to replace and, since then, she has spent about $5,000 on increased security.

Doepke and Palmer also said a few herbal grinders were stolen out of Lucky Kitty the same night as their break-in in March, and the following night, Kauai Marine & Mowers owner Steve Thatcher said someone beat the lock off his storage room and took a few things, though he’s not sure what the items were and how much they were worth.

Palmer and Doepke said they have been offered a chance to buy back their materials by several youths in the area, though they were quick to say they do not think those doing the talking necessarily did the thieving.

The glass display counter by the register was also “tagged” with “L.I.P.,” which Palmer and Doepke said stands for “Low-Income Posse,” a group of teenagers from the Apopo Hale government-housing project near the Kapa’a New Park.

Palmer and Doepke went to the park to ask some questions after the March break-in.

“One kid asked me what the store was tagged,” Palmer said. “I said, ‘You tell me,’ and he said, ‘L.I.P.'”

Palmer initially offered a $100 reward, which was met with a counter-offer of $500. So far, nothing has turned up, though they were offered new insight Monday afternoon when a few children from the neighborhood stopped in with the latest gossip.

Doepke and Palmer are beefing up their security systems with motion sensors and video monitoring in anticipation of another incident, though they doubt they will see any results beyond the satisfaction of knowing who is behind the break-in.

“I’ll know, at least,” said Doepke, who has also had a $1,000 moped stolen from his residence and severely damaged. “Other than that, we have no hope. We need Batman.”

Doepke and Palmer, who have been in business for three years and broken into four times, lament the lack of police presence.

“We’ve done more than (police) have,” Doepke said, motioning to photographs he and Palmer took of various teenagers and young men who have given them tips.

“If they just had a bike cop in this area (at night), I think that would be enough,” Palmer said.

In that respect, they are not alone.

“They need some police here,” said Debra Elkins of Mermaids Cafe. “This area’s been hit hard.”

Kaua’i Police Department spokesperson Lt. Roy Asher said there are 10 patrol officers on duty each night across the island, with two assigned to the area between Anahola and Lydgate Park.

To owners of area businesses, that is little consolation.

Doepke and Palmer do not expect the police to recover their merchandise or punish the culprits, and use the Kapaa Liquor and Wine robbery as an example.

A few years ago, some cigarettes and alcohol were stolen from the small liquor store, and owner Lyle Kuboyama said he provided police with an audio recording of the intruder that his security system captured.

But when he tried to follow up on the progress of the investigation, he was disappointed to learn that the police had seemingly done nothing.

“I called a couple of times and got no response,” Kuboyama said. When he got someone on the phone, Kuboyama said, “I asked them about the tape, and they said, ‘What tape?'”

Kuboyama called once or twice more, but due to lack of response, soon gave up for good.

As small-business owners with nothing beyond liability insurance, Doepke and Palmer are not only swallowing the losses themselves, but are also spending their own money to increase security. Palmer estimated that tab to be around $1,000 and climbing.

For Doepke, the solution lies in communication.

“You want to know how many tourists I tell?” he said. “All of them. You want to know how many people they tell?”

Doepke hopes awareness will create action. In the course of 45 minutes Monday afternoon, at least 10 tourists were given impromptu updates on The Glass Shack’s security problems and measures.

During that same time, three different groups of men entered the store and inquired about glass pipes, which can be used to smoke various narcotics, including crystal methamphetamine, or ice.

Doepke and Palmer said they maintain a strict policy of not selling or custom-blowing any such paraphernalia, which could be a reason for the breakins.

“It’s personal,” Doepke said. “They’re mad because we won’t sell them pipes, but we’re not going to be a part of that problem.”

Because he had not heard of Monday morning’s break-in, Asher could not comment on it on Monday night, and said he was not aware of any organization known as “L.I.P.”

No other stores were tagged with graffiti.

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