Watching over the Westside

KEKAHA — Last summer, Nathaniel Fisher noticed that gas was missing from his shop in Kekaha on a weekly basis.

The thief “stole five gallons of gas here (and there),” said Fisher, captain of Na Pali Experience. “It was almost unnoticeable. He would leave the cap off.”

But things started to escalate for the Kekaha resident when his home was broken into — twice.

“It’s a weird feeling. The first time was broad daylight in the middle of a hot, sunny Kekaha day,” Fisher said. “You feel like everyone’s looking at you as it is. I don’t know how he pulled it off. The second time, I was home.”

Incidents like Fisher’s prompted the community to take action.

A handful of Kekaha residents organized and created the Kekaha Community Watch Group that summer.

“The best thing we came up with was instead of having dedicated people out there patrolling two, three hours a day, we ask people to take different routes home and be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles and persons and report it to us,” said Dominic Acain, founding member and spokesperson for the group.

Over 100 incidents from the watch group have been documented, Acain said.

Fisher’s was among them.

After his house was robbed, Fisher said he was able to raise awareness within the community by posting his situation on the group’s Facebook page.

“The watch group was helpful for others because of my situation. Others took things seriously as a result of what happened to me,” Fisher said. “Putting that kind of word out was good. I was really happy about that. When you hear about someone breaking into a person’s home, that just sets up a whole new level of being vigilant.”

Later that fall, Jesse Borja, Dylan Crowell and Jayson Yanos of Kekaha were believed to be responsible for multiple break-ins in Kekaha, which included Fisher’s residence.

The three were arrested in October. Crowell and Borja were charged for first-degree burglary. Fisher said the two men robbed his place.

“They stole a laptop and a TV. I got the laptop back within 12 hours,” he said. “We found out the trail where it got sold.”

KPD was approached by Westside community members who were concerned by an increase in crimes, including thefts and break-ins, said KPD spokeswoman Sarah Blane.

The joint effort between law enforcement and the community to address these concerns — which included participation by the Kekaha Community Watch Group — led to the arrests.

“Any time KPD and the community can work together to combat crime, we can create a positive outcome,” said KPD Chief Darryl Perry. “Residents have intimate knowledge of what is occurring in their neighborhood and they can provide critical information to help police capture suspects. We are grateful to these groups, such as the Kekaha Community Watch Group, for playing an active role in making their community safer.”

TGI requested crime statistics of the Kekaha area on Thursday from KPD, but had not received them by late Friday.

The watchers’ system, Acain said, is a combination of community crowd-sourcing and anonymity.

“We use also the Nextdoor app, so people can report to us on their phones and computers,” Acain said. “If there’s something that’s happening in a particular area, the people that’s on board gets alerted right away. They come out of their house and shine their flashlights.”

He added: “We try to keep everything as anonymous as possible. We don’t want to give anybody any fuel to determine who is playing major roles in the organiza- tion.”

What amounted to multiple reports every day during the first few months of the watchers’ patrol, is now down to a few reports a week, and zero others weeks, Acain said.

“We have retired people live in the affluent areas, and they walk their animals,” Acain said. “What they noticed is that night activity has gone down to almost nothing. People were always hanging out by the tennis courts. Slowly by slowly, people started disappearing.”

One rule the watchers have is strictly documenting and reporting incidents, Acain said.

“Anyone who is involved with the patrolling or watching, we ask them not to intervene with any crime in progress,” Acain said.

Nowadays, Fisher said he really doesn’t think about crime in Kekaha.

“I don’t have to be constantly nervous about what’s going to happen tonight,” he said. “I think it’s a combination of the watch group, cameras and a sophisticated security system (I have) now. I’m so supportive of the watchers and so grateful and everybody is. It’s a really good thing.”

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