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. Tampa heading into several tough budget years

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Less pain now, more pain later.

    The Tampa City Council will hold a final public hearing on the proposed 2018 city budget and property tax rate at 5 p.m. Thursday on the third floor of Old City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd.
  2. The Daystarter: Rick vs. Rick 2.0 tonight; Bucs' McCoy says some fans cross line; Trump associate to testify; helicopter crashes onto Odessa roof


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.


    Rescuers respond to a crash of a small helicopter on the roof of a home in the Odessa area on Monday. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  3. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  4. Trump associate Roger Stone to talk to House panel in Russia probe


    WASHINGTON — The House intelligence panel will interview two of President Donald Trump's associates behind closed doors this week as congressional committees step up their investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

    Roger Stone talks to reporters outside a courtroom in New York this past March. The House intelligence panel will interview Stone behind closed doors Tuesday as congressional committees step up their investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Fformer Trump staffer Boris Epshteyn also will talk to the House panel. [Associated Press]
  5. Pinellas commission set to discuss next budget, licensing board

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Commission will be busy on Tuesday.