Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Pete police issue warning: Stop leaving keys in cars

ST. PETERSBURG — Detective Tim Brown saw the boys, 15 to 16 years old, huddled by the Citgo parking lot on Wednesday.

He waited near the gas station on 22nd Avenue S, where four cars have been stolen in the past month.

About 3 p.m., a man parked his 2004 Honda Accord and ran inside, leaving the keys in the ignition.

"And one of the kids just hopped in the car and took off," Brown said. "I asked him why when we caught him (Thursday) morning. He said, 'I needed a ride to the north side.' "

The scene is alarmingly common, Brown said: Teens loiter outside gas stations, convenience stores and strip malls, waiting for someone in a hurry to leave their unattended car running.

"They go on joy rides," Brown said. "They show the cars off to their friends."

Of the 551 cars stolen in St. Petersburg so far this year, 460 of them — 83.5 percent — had keys either in the ignition or elsewhere in the vehicle, police said.

Authorities are raising awareness about the crimes of opportunity through social media and by placing warning posters in "hot spots" where multiple cars have been stolen. They're also reminding people that leaving keys in a vacant car that is running is against Florida law and can result in a $116 fine.

"Always take your keys with you," Brown said. "It's that simple."

Citgo manager Mina Killeny, who has worked at the gas station at 3400 22nd Ave S for two years, said he worries car thieves will hurt business.

"People are scared to come here when they hear about people stealing cars at night, in broad daylight, all the time," Killeny said, adding it had happened twice there in one day. "The problem needs to be solved quickly. Very quickly."

Yvonne Thompson, who owns Jamaican restaurant Taste of the Islands in the nearby Lakeview Shopping Center, said that about a month ago, a boy riding a bike stole one of her customer's cars.

"She came in to buy two meat pies and left her dog in the car," Thompson said. "That boy jumped in her car, sped off and left her the bike."

Danielle Paquette can be reached at or (727) 893-8321.

St. Pete police issue warning: Stop leaving keys in cars 08/15/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 12:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Nearly 40 hospitalized on first day of Sunset Music Festival, on pace to exceed last year


    To reduce the number of medical emergencies this year, sponsors of the Sunset Music Festival promised heightened security and safety measures during this weekend's event at Raymond James Stadium.

    Thousands of people crowd the main stage at the Sunset Music Festival on Saturday in the north Raymond James Stadium parking area. The temperature at the time of the photo was 92 degrees. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]
  2. Woman killed in overnight Temple Terrace apartment fire, city says


    TEMPLE TERRACE — A woman died early Sunday as a result of a fire at an apartment complex, city officials said.

  3. Video: Indianapolis 500 drivers in fiery crash somehow walk away uninjured

    Auto racing

    Scott Dixon and Jay Howard avoided injury in a spectacular crash - or what Dixon labeled "a wild ride" afterward - during the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

  4. Homeland security chief defends Kushner's alleged proposal for 'back channel' to the Russians as 'a good thing"


    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the lone administration official to speak out publicly about reports that Jared Kushner sought a back channel to communicate with the Russian government, defended the move, saying it was a "good thing" for the U.S. government.

    Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, listens during a meeting with small business leaders at the White House on Jan. 30. [Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford]
  5. After hard charging on health care in 2016, Marco Rubio is slow, careful


    As a presidential candidate, Marco Rubio pitched an Obamacare replacement and tore into Donald Trump for not having one. "What is your plan? What is your plan on health care? You don't have a plan," the Florida senator aggressively challenged in a February 2016 debate.