Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

This ain't Mayberry, St. Petersburgers

Maybe it was growing up not in Mayberry but in Miami, with big-city Miami crime.

Related News/Archive

But we would no more leave the keys in the car than open up the front door to our house and leave it that way all night long, just in case a needy burglar happened by.

Keys in the car? Why not throw 20 bucks on the seat for gas? Maybe a gift card to a fast-food drive-through?

So it sounded wildly improbable when St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster recently said that 60 percent of his city's car thefts happened because people left their keys in their cars. Then a Times' PolitiFact Florida check revealed something even more jaw-dropping — that 83.5 percent of cars stolen this year had keys helpfully tucked into ignitions or elsewhere in the cars.

What a sweet gig, to be a St. Pete car thief!

No pesky screwdrivers needed to get the thing started — just a sharp eye in a parking lot to find out who's too trusting.

How nice if you could actually live in a place that safe.

So I got to wondering about the city where I now live: Is Tampa equally trusting?

No, as it turns out. ($#@& no, as we like to say in the gritty big city.)

Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy says keys left behind account for about 25 percent of Tampa car thefts. The national average is about 40 to 50 percent.

In Tampa, the screwdriver is still a car thief's best friend.

"I guess (St. Pete) can interpret it in a positive way, that people feel safe," she said (rather charitably, if you ask me). "We're a bigger city, a more urban setting, probably a little more in tune to our surroundings."

But before we get too smug over all this big-city savvy, Tampa still has plenty of utterly avoidable crimes of opportunity, typically lawn mowers, leaf blowers and assorted tools that disappear from open garages in "safe" neighborhoods. ("Criminals take the path of least resistance," McElroy says. "Where there's easy pickings is where they'll tend to target.")

So Tampa police blanket parked cars with fliers telling motorists that the GPS, laptop or loose change inside is (obviously) easily seen from the street. And perhaps better off in the trunk.

And here's a fun fact: It's a ticketable offense to leave your car running unattended — even to keep the AC on in the sweltering sun as you slip into 7-Eleven for a Slurpee.

It's not a crime, however, to leave your keys behind.

"Unfortunately," says Tampa police Chief Jane Castor, "we don't have any statutes that cover a lack of common sense."

• • •

At Hillsborough County's back-to-school news conference Friday at B.C. Graham Elementary, I was amazed at how much had changed — and hadn't. The library where we gathered might be called a "media center" now, but it had that same promising smell of books, and more books, and also chalk, though I am told chalk is not the classroom mainstay it once was. School lunch was still chicken, green beans and fruit on a tidy tray, except now parents can track fat grams and school menus on a free app.

• • •

Having just reached for my cellphone at my desk, and having realized it currently sits in the cupholder of my car far away, I have decided maybe it is a good thing that a lack of common sense is not a crime. (So much for Miami savvy.)

This ain't Mayberry, St. Petersburgers 08/16/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 9:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late

    Editorials

    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.
  3. Florida concealed weapons permit holders exposed in computer hack

    Blogs

    More than 16,000 concealed weapons permit holders in Florida may have had their names accidently made public because of a data breach at the The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

  4. Editorial: Careless words unfit for a mayor

    Editorials

    Even his critics marvel at how well Bob Buckhorn has grown into the job since first being elected as Tampa's mayor in 2011. His grace in public and his knack for saying and doing the right things has reflected well on the city and bestowed civic pride in the mayor's office. That's why Buckhorn's cheap shot at the media …

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during a Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center last year. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  5. SCOTUS won't hear Bondi appeal on death penalty

    Blogs

    From Dara Kam at News Service of Florida:

    Bondi