Small crimes can cause some big headaches

PO‘IPU — The theft of a backpack on a beach is not necessarily headline news, but two college students want people to know how a minor crime like this can cause a major disruption in the lives of others.

Sarah Muirhead, 18, of Waimea, and Ellie Brooks, 17, of Tiberon, Calif., are spending the remainder of their vacation on Kaua‘i replacing identification cards and making special arrangements just to return to the Mainland.

The two California State–Northridge students were enjoying time together at Brennecke’s Beach for no more than 40 minutes on a recent sunny afternoon when the backpack was stolen, Sarah said.

Soaking up some sun away from the water up near the line of bushes that border the beach from the hotel areas, they were surrounded by families and didn’t feel any concern about security.

Still, when the two decided to go rent a surfboard they took some precautions. Ellie needed her debit card for the rental and put her new digital camera, $170, both their wallets with ID cards, and Sarah’s car keys in the pack. She covered it with a towel and pushed it up under the bushes.

They were just yards away in the open-air rental shack and returned a few minutes later, she said.

“I looked down and my backpack was not here,” Ellie said. “My first thought was ‘What do I do?”

Feeling alarmed and violated they looked around frantically and then darted to the parking lot to spot anyone who may have taken it. They asked around but no one seemed to have seen a thing.

They thought the backpack might make a less noticeable item to walk off with, given the number of bags and purses they saw loosely guarded all over the beach.

It was a public beach but the women asked the security at the hotel next door for assistance. They helped them look but said they had to call the Kaua‘i Police Department to make a report.

A KPD officer took down all the details and said they would keep an eye open, and to call if they saw someone with the pack and not to confront them on their own.

Local surfers helped the women search the trash cans and bushes in case whoever took the pack threw it away after taking the cash and camera. They were hopeful because Sarah’s cell phone was not stolen and it was sitting right next to the pack.

After some time people began to approach them and express their sorrow for what happened.

One person said something was stolen at the beach by someone just the day before.

“I am never leaving anything ever again — even for two minutes,” Ellie said. “It was just a dumb mistake.”

“They must have been watching us, and hid in the crevice of a bush,” Sarah said. “Now I don’t trust anyone.”

They realized right away that they wouldn’t be able to fly back to the Mainland without an ID card. Ellie called her mother who is checking on getting a replacement driver’s license sent to her in Hawai‘i. She will also have to replace her school ID.

The camera had all of Ellie’s vacation photos and she would hope that people who steal for the money and the camera would be kind enough to leave the memory card along with the ID cards and keys at the post office.

Sarah has been home since May 31. Ellie came to visit on July 16, and had planned to return on July 31.

The two were driving Jill Tapworth’s car, Sarah’s mother, who rented a car for work at Otsuka’s, so that the two would have transportation. In return, they cared for Sarah’s grandmother.

“It is really her grandmother’s car and it was the only set of keys and now I have to pay $150 to get a locksmith to make another set,” said Tapworth.

The theft of the backpack qualifies as second-degree theft. The KPD Annual Report states that the number of reported thefts in 2009 was 1,595, or 44 percent of all crimes reported that year. Only 28 percent of reported thefts were cleared.

KPD reminds people not to leave valuables behind or out of sight in public places.


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