ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - Police on Friday released a video showing a motorist, who had just gassed up, walking away from his vehicle, then another car pulls up, several people jump out of it and into his, and drive away -- all in about 10 seconds.
"What we're seeing is they're waiting for the opportunity for the vehicle," Sgt. Brian Taylor told FOX 13 News. "If you get away from your vehicle even as close as 10 feet, someone will jump in your car and take your vehicle."
Taylor said this approach is not new, but St. Petersburg police are seeing an increase. Since July 1, it has happened five times at a station on Fifth Avenue N and six times at a gas station one Central Avenue at 58th Street.
"You have a lot of activity going on at the gas pumps. You have a lot of things going on, people not really paying attention to who's in the parking lot -- except the people that are preying to get a car," Taylor explained.
Pam Rolfe's experience at a Wawa on 34th Street N is even stranger: Her car was stolen while she was putting air in her right front tire.
She felt her car move and thought she may have overinflated the tire
"...And then the car started rolling back," Rolfe recounted, "so I got up, it whipped around and I ran after it and grabbed the door, but the door was locked."
Rolfe's car was recovered, damaged and awaiting repairs at Maher Chevrolet, where collision shop manager Fritz Bickell noted a new risk exposure: Cars with remote fobs and push-to-start buttons.
"As long as this key fob is within five to six feet of the vehicle, it will activate the locks, it will activate the ignition system on it," Bickell demonstrated. "Somebody gets out of their vehicle, they see somebody else they know, they start talking, they're not paying attention to their vehicle, another person can jump into that vehicle...start it and take off with it."
Sgt. Taylor simplifies the lesson: Lock your car, take your keys.
"If you're going five feet, 10 feet, 30 seconds -- take your keys out of your car," he added.