With cars becoming harder to steal via hot-wiring, St. Petersburg, Fl., police says that burglars increasingly are stealing car keys, reports the Tampa Bay Times. “Before, keys weren’t necessarily the go-to thing,” acting Assistant Chief Michael Kovacsev said. “Now they’ve tended to go up a little bit because they realize they could come back and get the car.” Detective Thomas Tully has seen 21 burglaries in nine months where keys were taken. In some cases, thieves didn’t take anything else, he said, which can lead residents to believe nothing was taken because they don’t notice a missing spare set. In three cases, thieves returned days later for the car.
It has created a complicated problem for law enforcement. St. Petersburg’s auto theft unit deals with stolen cars, while keys taken from a home in a break-in would be investigated as a burglary. Carjackings are handled by another unit because they are considered strong-arm robberies. Of the 193 vehicle thefts reported so far, thieves used keys in 153 of them. The majority involved unattended cars with the keys inside or spare keys hidden in obvious places. It’s a huge uptick. “They’re adjusting as the car companies are adjusting, unfortunately,” said one detective