Photography and story by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7
Three Kapoho papaya farms were hit hard by vandals who chopped through more than 10 acres of papaya trees sometime between Monday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 19. A year ago a similar chopping of 8,500 papaya trees occurred in the same area.
Hawaii County Police Detective Brandon Konanui said a resident drove past the fields of papayas between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Monday and saw the trees standing. At 6 a.m. Tuesday, a farmer discovered the destruction to the farms.
Three farms were affected by the destruction with Margarita Hopkins of the county Research and Development Department reporting one new farmer had his entire 3-acre crop wiped-out.
County representatives along with police and papaya farmers attended an emergency meeting Tuesday evening at the Pahoa Community Center to work on solutions to prevent the problem and catch the vandals who destroyed the crops.
A big question at the meeting was the motive for the crop destruction. Theories voiced included: Someone possibly having a vendetta against one or more farmers; possible jealousy between farmers; anti-GMO (genetically modified food crops) activists; marijuana growers; and even disgruntled hunters though one of the victims of the crop damage dismissed the theory on hunters.
Konanui said four or more individuals may have caused the destruction due to the various cut heights on the trees likely corresponding to the height of each vandal chopping at the tree trunks.
Solutions suggested at the meeting included: Creating a Neighborhood Watch-type system to observe farmlands and creating a large enough monetary reward so an anonymous tip would lead to arrests.
Along with the vandalism to trees in June 2010, a few farmers recalled another act of vandalism occurred two years ago in the same Kapoho papaya farm area.
POLICE MEDIA RELEASE
Big Island police are investigating the destruction of 10 acres of papaya trees in Puna.
On Tuesday morning (July 19) Puna patrol officers responded to a report that trees in three adjoining papaya fields in the Kapoho area had been cut down. Each property belonged to a separate owner. Additional adjoining papaya fields were left undamaged.
The scene, near the area where 8,500 trees were destroyed a year ago, is located on Alohalani, about one mile north from where it intersects Route 132 near the 6-mile marker. The trees appear to have been chopped down with a machete sometime between Monday morning and Tuesday morning.
Detectives from the Area I Criminal Investigation are continuing the investigation. The value of the damaged property is still under investigation.
Police ask that anyone with information about this case call Acting Lieutenant Reed Mahuna at 961-2252. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.