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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 10:45 a.m., Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Soda machines target of thieves

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

The criminals in these cases have scored a little money but left thousands in damage to the money bags: Coke and Pepsi vending machines.

Police have been tracking a rash of vending-machine thefts over the past few months in which the thieves take a more direct route to the loot than jimmying the lock.

They simply cut straight through steel to the cash box.

"The average damage is over $1,000, to several thousand dollars," said Lt. Steven Nishihara, who is tracking the cases for the police department's theft detail. "The damage is worse than what they're getting, which on average is under $100."

Spokesmen for the Honolulu Coke and Pepsi operations that own the machines have not returned calls for comment.

Nishihara could offer no precise figure on losses to Pepsi Hawaii and Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Hawai'i, but he said officials with each company have said they exceed $100,000. That figure may include lost potential soda revenue as well as the value of the machines themselves.

Vending-machine theft has always been a problem, he said, but this machine-trashing approach has been logged increasingly since summer. In a survey of cases between August and October, Nishihara has tallied 62 of the break-ins, about double the rate of vending thefts last year.

Among the recent cases: One man, 20, was arrested in connection with a vending-machine break-in at the Mililani Recreation Center I about 1 a.m. yesterday. And about 11 p.m. Monday, neighbors reported banging sounds at Kammie's Market in Sunset Beach; the Coke machine there was found cut open.

Nishihara declined to disclose how, police suspect, the machines are being cut.

"It makes quite a bit of noise, and people are able to do this in public places," he said. "It's hard to imagine how it's occurring."