Spam thefts in Hawaii have risen to the point some businesses are putting the meat in plastic cases under lock and key, according to The Washington Post.
The Post on Thursday reported that such retailers require customers to ask a salesperson to retrieve the food before they can buy it.
“It’s a staple,” Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said of Spam’s popularity in the state.
Yamaki she said she believes Spam has become a form of currency in Hawaii, especially for drug addicts who want money fast.
Spam sells for about $2.50 per 12-ounce can depending on the part of Hawaii, meaning a thief can turn a decent profit by underselling retailers they stole from packs of eight or 12 cans.
“It’s organized retail time,” she said. “It’s not like ‘I’m going in to steal Spam to feed my family. I’m going in with a list of things I want to steal.’”
“We hear a lot of rumors where it’s going,” Yamaki added. “We’ve heard they work through middlemen.”
“We’ve heard they’re selling from the back of their cars. We’ve heard all kinds of rumors. Whether they’re true or not, I’m not sure.”
National Geographic in 2015 noted that Hawaii consumes more Spam per capita than any other state at approximately five million pounds annually.
Yamaki said that thefts of the product in bulk, however, are a more recent phenomenon due to a state law enacted in 2016.
The law changed the definition of a felony from a theft worth at least $350 to one costing at least $750.
“They steal right under [the cutoff],” Yamaki said, with the Post noting a thief could steal roughly 300 Spam cans before crossing the threshold for a felony.