1. News

This is the easiest way to have your car stolen

Bob Scheuerer, left, a Meals on Wheels volunteer, greets a recipient during his delivery in Gulfport and St. Petersburg. Scheurer's car wasstolen when he left it running while dropping off meals. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Apr. 28, 2017

Delivery drivers, don't leave your cars running when you make a stop.

A teen in Clearwater stole a Chevy Impala driven by a Domino's Pizza delivery driver, then ditched the light-up sign and her purse in a trash bin.

One boy ordered Chinese food, then hopped in the delivery driver's Toyota Corolla when the man walked to the door.

"I used to get people like that," said Luis Herring Jr., 16, now in prison for carjacking. He would order food to a random address, from a phone number obtained on a computer app.

Even a Meals on Wheels volunteer fell victim to kid car thieves.

READ THE SERIES: Hot wheels: Kids are driving Pinellas County's car-theft epidemic. It's a dangerous — sometimes deadly — game.

READ THE SERIES: The chase: Cops, teen car thieves and a dangerous game

Bob Scheuerer, a 70-year-old Tierra Verde volunteer who delivers food to the elderly and disabled across St. Petersburg, pulled up to a squat house on 13th Avenue S in Childs Park one morning in October 2015. Boys on bicycles pedaled closer.

"Once I handed the person at the door the meal and I turned around, my car was about 50 or 60 feet down the road, pulling away at full speed," Scheuerer said.

Many drivers leave their cars running when they drop off plates, he said. They're usually gone for less than a minute, always in a hurry.

Meals on Wheels "does not have any sort of written policy that says volunteer drivers should turn off their car before delivering a meal," said spokeswoman Julie Piper Finley.

"We assume people are smart enough to figure that out on their own."

At least 53 times within a period of 18 months, kids stole cars people had left running — in front of a laundromat, at a walk-up ATM, at an auto repair shop, at a hospital valet. The drivers had been in a hurry — to pick up a kid from the babysitter, or a dog from the groomer, or unload charity items outside a church.

Scheuerer, the Meals on Wheels driver, had to borrow a phone to call for help; he'd left his inside. "It was like I was just dropped out of space and I had nothing to identify myself."

He said he had to pay a cab driver $175 to take him to get a new license, a new Veterans Identification Card, a new phone.

His Hyundai Sonata was gone for three weeks. In that time, the kids who stole it logged 5,000 miles. Police found the sedan outside a fish and tackle store. The front axle was bent, Scheuerer said, and the body dinged. It reeked of alcohol, and marijuana roaches littered the floor.

"It's like they're invading the privacy of your life," he said. "It's just a very empty feeling and a helpless feeling."

Scheuerer now locks his car, he said, but many other drivers do not.

Because they're only gone a few seconds. What could possibly go wrong?


  1. Integrity Express Logistics, which is expanding its Tampa office, matches freight with trucks to haul it in 48 states and Canada. (DANNY JOHNSTON | Associated Press) DANNY JOHNSTON  |  AP
    The company plans to hire at least 50 more employees and to spend $230,000 on renovations and new office equipment.
  2. Scott Purcell, a senior geophysicist with GeoView, left, and Mike Wightman, president of GeoView use ground penetrating radar technology to scan a portion of King High campus in search for Ridgewood Cemetery in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, October 23, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  3. Lynn Cristina is a Wesley Chapel momma with two girls and works full time as a marketing manager. Courtesy of Lynn Cristina
    Why would I discourage my daughters’ creativity and drive? Aside from being lazy, I was trying to shield them from disappointment.
  4. Phase 1A of the project includes closing W Cass Street from N Willow Avenue to N Boulevard. DIVYA KUMAR  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A stormwater system improvement project has resulted in fewer customers frequenting Cass Street businesses in North Hyde Park.
  5. James Rybicki, 63, faces charges of lewd and lascivious molestation and possession of child pornography. But he could go free after a judge found that Pinellas sheriff’s detectives and Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors lied to obtain a search warrant in his case. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
    A Pinellas sheriff’s detective and Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors “made false statements” to obtain a search warrant, a judge has ruled. The evidence was thrown out.
  6. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, with Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, the ranking member, concludes a day of testimony by key witnesses as it probes President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The United States ambassador to the European Union told the impeachment inquiry his efforts to press Ukraine to announce investigations were ordered by President Trump, and top officials knew.
  7. The woman was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle and culpable negligence.
  8. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell during a hearing to review the guardianship cases once overseen by Traci Hudson, who faces criminal charges in one of those cases. Hudson was not present during Wednesday's hearing in a St. Petersburg courtroom. Pinellas sheriff's detectives say she stole more than $500,000 from an elderly man for whom she held power of attorney. Court records show she was appointed as a guardian in about two dozen cases. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Traci Hudson had served as guardian overseeing the affairs of 26 people until her arrest on a charge of exploitation of the elderly. Her handling of those cases will be reviewed.
  9. Robert "Bobby" Mavis, 40, top left, is shown in this family photo with his wife Elizabeth and their children, from left, Evan, Kendall and Kyle. The father of three died in the Nov. 13 chain-reaction crash on northbound Interstate 75 in Hillsborough County. Courtesy Elizabeth Mavis
    Robert “Bobby” Mavis, 40, was on his way home from work last week when a semi-trailer truck crashed into his Mercedes.
  10. Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority bus driver Rekira Owens is seen at the wheel behind a newly installed shield as they board the bus on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Tampa.  The clear divider is meant to protect drivers from physical assaults after a driver was killed earlier this year. A bus driver on Tuesday was operating a vehicle without a shield when he was attacked by a rider. CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times
    About 75 buses still need the clear, plastic doors. The transit authority plans to install eight a day.