Citizens organize against crime

LIHUE — Recent arrests of burglary suspects on the North Shore made by the Kauai Police Department were due, in large part, to community efforts.

Brandon Brown-Ho and Rickson Johnny were arrested earlier this year by police after several residents banded together by sending emails to one another and to Kauai police officers and detectives that showed pictures of the suspects and a getaway car.

It was a victory for Harvest Edmonds, one of the organizers of the email chain. Edmonds also sent several other forms of communications — calls, texts, pictures — to members in Kilauea.

“We ended up talking to everyone,” Edmonds said. “Anytime something happened, we sent something.”

After she sent several emails to officers and spoke to prosecutors at events, she said the community rallied.

Everyone — prosecutors, judges and legislators — needs to be involved to tackle thievery and crime on Kauai, but especially police and the average citizen, said Robert Warren, one of the organizers of Citizens Against Thieves, a grassroots organization that formed in 2012 to combat burglaries and thefts on the North Shore.

Warren, whose organization reaches as far the South Shore, said KPD needs the community’s help to prevent crime by sending police officers as much information about suspected burglaries and thefts.

Neighborhood watches and associations are the “eyes and ears of KPD,” he said.

“In addition to KPD’s internal efforts, community involvement plays a crucial role in crime prevention and the apprehension of perpetrators,” said Deputy Chief of Police Michael Contrades.

Contrades credits CAT and its members for the Ho arrest, as they were able to notify each other of suspicious activity in a Kilauea neighborhood.

CAT, which has a large membership that is organized and stays in close communication with each other and police, is a good model of how community-police relations can be successful in crime prevention and arrests, he said.

Many times, residents are able to share a detailed description of the activity, including location and time; a description of the suspects; a make and model of a vehicle; a license plate — and sometimes even surveillance footage, Contrades said.

Through this shared and timely communication, police are better able to locate a suspect and can sometimes connect that individual to other crimes, Contrades said. Chances are that a string of burglaries that occur in a neighborhood involve the same suspects, he said.

“We tend to see that burglaries are cyclical as suspects are arrested, serve their sentence, then more often than not, they start to repeat the same crimes,” KPD Chief Darryl Perry said. “It’s important to note that the police are only one aspect of a comprehensive criminal justice system; in fact, it’s just the start.”

Yoshito L’Hote, president of the Kilauea Neighborhood Association, said he tries to get his community active in neighborhood watch participation to protect themselves against thieves, because he recognizes the importance of working with police.

“When residents take ownership of their community, it’s really rewarding,” he said. “We are trying to engage people and it’s really important for people to care. We want people to be part of the planning process and the building process and building toward the right solution. We want everyone to participate in the process.”

L’Hote said KNA has monthly meetings that encourage residents to stay active in the community and get them thinking about how they can help out in a neighborhood watch.

“We are not an enforcement body,” he said. “It’s important to know who can enforce. ‘You cannot go hide in your home and ignore them.’ We encourage people to know the proper channels.”

That’s where police or the Justice Department get involved, he said.

Perry said having a neighborhood watch does not replace the standard protocol of calling police to file a police report when a crime occurs.

The added communication between neighboring homes or businesses can help tremendously in identifying suspects and also recognizing crime trends, he said.

Warren said that in past years, neighborhood watches and associations used to be distrustful of police, but that has dissolved in recent years.

“We need to work with the police department, not against the police department,” Warren said.

CAT, which is comprised of more than 1,000 members, has seen a steady rise in growth over the last six months.

More organizations are joining the good fight against the criminals, he said.

“I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to join, unless you’re a thief,” Warren said.

CAT is not the only neighborhood watch program on the island, but it is one of the more active groups at this time. To get involved in a neighborhood watch program, contact Lt. Rod Green at 241-1907.

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