ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Police have put out a warning for drivers as car thefts skyrocket in St. Petersburg.
“Our detectives are definitely staying busy with it,” said Sgt. Anthony Alli with the St. Petersburg Police Auto Theft Unit.
St. Petersburg police report that vehicle thefts are up 37% this year, with 581 vehicles stolen as of July 2023, compared to 448 during the same time last year.
“Our increase has predominantly been because of the Kia and Hyundai trends,” said Sgt. Alli.
“My Kia, they took the end of a USB and put it right in the ignition,” said Madison Rebels who experienced the trend firsthand when thieves stole her Kia from her St. Pete apartment complex.
“Not even six months later, I got a new car, I got a 2019 Honda accord and that one was stolen,” Rebels added. “I’m like how? The same person, two different cars.”
Police said most of the suspects are teens looking for a quick joy ride.
“The majority is juveniles. They’re repeat offenders, so they go and and get caught on certain cases, and then come back out and they are reoffending again,” said Sgt. Alli.
“I work so hard for this, and I paid for this car and I work every day to really take care of it, and take care of my son, and then it gets stolen from you and it’s devastating,” said Rebels.
Rebels said she now has a tracking device in her vehicle and double checks that it’s locked every night.
Police urge everyone to lock their vehicles at all times, and avoid leaving any valuables in it.