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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Hale'iwa sign popular among thieves

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser North Shore Bureau

HALEIWA — For the second time, a sign directing residents and tourists to Hale'iwa has been stolen, angering a community worried about the possible economic impact of the theft.

Hale'iwa businesses and residents hope a sign that was stolen earlier this month will be returned, no questions asked.

Advertiser library photo • July 30, 1996

"Whoever did it, they're really hurting the merchants of Hale'iwa," said Antya Miller, president of Haleiwa Main Street, a business group.

The group wants the sign returned, no questions asked, Miller said. The sign was reported missing March 18.

Haleiwa Main Street commissioned three signs in July 1996, after a bypass road was built in the area, siphoning tourists away from the town.

A sign was placed at each end of Joseph P. Leong Highway and one was placed in the middle. Two of the signs were stolen a few weeks after but were recovered a couple of days later.

This time, the one in the middle of the bypass highway has been stolen.

North Shore businesses and residents contributed $15,000 to design, build and erect the signs, which feature a surfer riding a wave.

An arrow directs drivers to a bypass exit and the main thoroughfare through Haleiwa.

Visible in both directions, the missing 5-foot by 5-foot sign showed people traveling toward Waimea to take the next left turn to reach Hale'iwa. Now there is no second reminder, Miller said.

"We need the sign back," she said. "The signs were put up to benefit the Hale'iwa town and merchants."

Tourists regularly stopped at the sign to have their photographs taken there, Miller said.

George Atkins, owner of Haleiwa Art Gallery and Ocean in Glass, remembers the theft in 1996. Two days later an anonymous telephone tip led police to Kawailoa Drive just outside Hale'iwa, where the signs were abandoned.

"There was so much hoopla about them; people knew there was a lynch mob looking for them," Atkins said.

After that the signs were reinforced at a cost of more than $750 and were bolted with special anti-theft hardware.

Joe Lazar, owner of Haleiwa Joe's Seafood Grill, said the signs created a sense of pride in the community. People haven't begun to realize it's missing but Lazar said he expects outrage when the word gets out.

"It's a pretty low down thing to do," he said. "For some individual to take something that belongs to everyone is pretty weak."

Despite their foam core, the signs are not easy to handle and required three people to install them, Lazar said, adding that he thought it would take two people to remove the signs.

The signs are not insured and he said he's not sure the business group could afford to replace the one stolen.

Anyone with information about the signs should call the police at 911.

Miller said she would also take calls at 638-8462.