Se­cur­ing the fleet

County get­ting its ‘se­cu­rity act to­gether’ after sec­ond bus stolen

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By JOHN BUR­NETT

The sec­ond theft of a Hele-On bus within a month, al­legedly by the same in­di­vid­ual, has county of­fi­cials scram­bling to en­sure it doesn’t hap­pen again.

Mayor Harry Kim said Tues­day he met with Curt Sharp, the re­tired Ma­rine Corps of­fi­cer serv­ing his sec­ond 89-day con­tract as a con­sul­tant to the be­lea­guered county Mass Tran­sit Agency. Kim said the orig­i­nal pur­pose of the meet­ing was the sta­tus of the new 5.3-acre Mass Tran­sit Agency base­yard set to open in Oc­to­ber on Leilani Street, but se­cu­rity was a prom­i­nent item of dis­cus­sion.

“I told them, ‘You will come back with rec­om­men­da­tions of all the things you con­sider … pos­si­ble, and we will re­view them,’” Kim said.

Sharp said he’s al­ready in the process of ar­rang­ing “phys­i­cal se­cu­rity, 24/7” for the cur­rent base­yard on East Lanikaula Street.

“That’s the only thing we can do,” Sharp said. “… The top man … ba­si­cally said we need the se­cu­rity, so what we’re do­ing is fol­low­ing up on that. We’re try­ing to get that done this week or early next week. … In my mind, that’s the course that we’re tak­ing right now, the only one that’s left for us.”

The buses can be started by push­ing a but­ton, with a kill switch lo­cated in the en­gine com­part­ment.

Asked if mea­sures such as a steer­ing wheel club, wheel boot tire lock or Lo­jack would be ef­fec­tive, Sharp replied, “No.”

“Peo­ple need to un­der­stand these buses put in a hard day’s work, then they come back to the de­pot,” he said. “We have the me­chan­ics that go over them to make sure that every­thing’s OK. And then, they’re washed and parked for the next event. And some­times, those events start at 1:30, 2:30 in the morn­ing, the next day … one of those runs be­ing from here to Waikoloa, Ha­makua Coast, Waimea, Kona.

“All we are do­ing right now is en­sur­ing we’re se­cur­ing our lit­tle piece of a 6-acre Depart­ment of Public Works sec­tion. We’ve got one lit­tle cor­ner of that whole thing, not even an acre, and, un­for­tu­nately, right by the front gate. So we’re go­ing to have to get se­cu­rity.

“(Act­ing Mass Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tor) Tif­fany Kai has sent out in­struc­tions to ev­ery­one, ba­si­cally say­ing as soon as se­cu­rity is there, they’re go­ing to start look­ing at your badges. … So you’ll need a badge to get into the gate.”

Although po­lice said it ap­pears the sus­pect, 21-year-old Kawelo Nakamura of Hilo, cut the lock to the gate of the base­yard, Sharp said the fence, in spots, is as low as 4 feet.

“I was able to high­jump it, and I’m 72 years old,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty, but I did it.”

Po­lice said Nakamura was charged Tues­day with first-de­gree theft, re­sist­ing an or­der to stop, reck­less en­dan­ger­ing, reck­less driv­ing, driv­ing with­out a com­mer­cial driver’s li­cense, driv­ing a stolen ve­hi­cle, prop­erty dam­age and two counts of inat­ten­tion to driv­ing for Mon­day’s bus theft.

His bail was set at $42,000, and his ini­tial ap­pear­ance is set for to­day in Hilo Dis­trict Court.

Nakamura also was ar­raigned Tues­day in Hilo Cir­cuit Court for the first bus theft, which hap­pened Aug. 5. He pleaded not guilty to first-de­gree theft, driv­ing a stolen ve­hi­cle, leav­ing the scene of an ac­ci­dent, crim­i­nal prop­erty dam­age and driv­ing the bus with­out a com­mer­cial driver’s li­cense.

Act­ing Hilo Cir­cuit Judge Harry Fre­itas or­dered Nakamura to ap­pear for trial at 9 a.m. Jan. 8, 2018, and set bail for those charges at $18,000, mak­ing Nakamura’s to­tal bail $60,000.

Nakamura was on su­per­vised re­lease for those charges when the sec­ond bus theft oc­curred.

“The buses made head­lines be­cause of such an un­usual, ridicu­lous thing … where the same guy steals a bus twice, just for joyrides,” Kim said. “And, yes, we have to look at that and negate any­thing we can to stop fur­ther oc­cur­rences, be­cause this is go­ing to cost us money, be­cause he did dam­age the bus.

“You count your bless­ings … be­cause he eas­ily could have caused harm to peo­ple. We were lucky he did not.”

Sharp es­ti­mated dam­age to the stolen bus and two other buses dam­aged in the process at be­tween $10,000 and $12,000.

“I want to em­pha­size that the mayor and I are very se­ri­ous about this, that we get our se­cu­rity act to­gether,” he said. “We thought we did every­thing we could, and it didn’t work. The same guy came back in. Un­be­liev­able. It’s like the same bank rob­ber go­ing back to the same bank and rob­bing the same bank.

“We went through all the hoops very quickly, and as of Mon­day morn­ing, we got the A-OK to set up phys­i­cal se­cu­rity 24/7 in the area. So that’s what we’re work­ing on right now.”



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