Plantation on alert to thwart thieves

LIHU‘E — Kilohana Plantation is stepping up security measures after management reports of brazen daylight thefts, including a recent attempt to run off with sections of heavy gauge fence.

“We have beefed up security and installed one additional night gate,” said Pepe Trask, general manager of the Kaua‘i Plantation Railway.

Trask helped to build the 3.5-mile plantation railway line five years ago and it continues to draw an average of about 150 people daily for tours of the plantation. He is also a supervisor of many other details around the 150-acre site, including the security of the orchards, the mansion, the numerous shops and galleries, a courtyard and 22 North restaurant.

The plantation has been running since 1985. Thefts of fruit, heavy duty tires and other plantation equipment are rarely if ever solved, Trask said. The most recent incident reported prior to this was an attempted break-in of an ATM machine.

“We have a lot of traffic here, with employees and customers,” he said, noting that the nature of the orchard, the tours and the isolation has made them a target for day and night thefts.

The fruit orchards and vegetable gardens are irrigated in rotation with the help of a private water pump station in the northwest corner of the property. The pump station is contained within a 60’ x 60’ foot perimeter hurricane fence, which is 8’ x 8’ with sectional poles every 10 feet.

On Friday, Kilohana Plantation owner Fred Atkins went to turn on the pump at 8 a.m., a daily one-hour routine. He returned in about an hour to turn the pump off and reported to Trask that sections of the fence had been removed.

Trask said the thieves cut a series of six thick clips that held the fencing onto the posts. They rolled up the cut fence as if they had planned to take it but left it behind in perhaps a hasty escape before being discovered.

The gas engine pump, several gas containers and water filtration tanks and other equipment were left as well, and are all secured now with a heavy duty chain. The thieves had to drive back through a locked gate and down the only road to the pump station.

They were able to accomplish so much deconstruction in broad daylight because the remoteness of the site within a heavily wooded area with brush and mounds. A 4×4 pickup truck now sits parked sideways to block the path to the pump station.

“We have identified two trucks that were seen in the immediate vicinity of that area, that are not regular trucks in area where only employees are permitted,” said Trask. “These are old plantation roads but they are all locked. I personally check every gate to be sure that it is locked down tight.”

There are maintenance and orchard workers that live on site. Between them and the other new security measures, Trask said they are watching intensely and write down license plate numbers and immediately alert the office of any unfamiliar vehicles or people.

The crime was not reported to the Kaua‘i Police Department. Trask said that once they have information to show who did it then they will go to the police.

Residents, however, are encouraged by police to always report a crime whether they believe it will be solved or not.

“The Kaua‘i Police Department encourages our citizens to report property and crimes of violence so that we can address these situations by bringing the offender to justice, and possibly prevent another event from taking place,” Chief Darryl Perry said Wednesday. “If no report is generated, KPD cannot follow through, and the perpetrator will continue to victimize and reoffend.”

 

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by emailing tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.

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