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ST. LOUIS – Police are warning drivers about a new tactic used by St. Louis car thieves.

They are pulling up to people’s vehicles while they are distracted filling their tires up with air or refueling with gasoline. A suspect then sneaks into the victim’s unlocked vehicle and drives away.

So far in 2021, there have been 17 stolen vehicles and 11 instances of stolen items at gas stations in the city’s second police district. In many cases, the victim’s key fob is left in the car. This makes it easy for a suspect to get in and drive away.

The second police district of St. Louis stretches west of Grand Avenue and south of Lindell to the border with St. Louis County. It is not clear how many more of these crimes have occurred outside of the district’s limits.

Video of one suspect stealing a car at the Amoco gas station at 981 Skinker is disturbing. St. Louis Police included it with their message about the warning.

Anyone with a tip, evidence, or more information should call detectives at 314-444-0100.

“You always have to keep eyes on the back of your head and as my dad always said, keep your eyes on a swivel,” St. Louis resident Steve Laury said.

Police are hoping by posting flyers at gas pumps, drivers will become aware of where the crimes are happening so they don’t become the next victim.

“To think that it’s even unsafe during the daytime is really scary, especially at a gas station so close to my university. You would think it’s a safer area yet it can happen here,” Washington University student Kristina Bush.

Common threads are unlocked doors and distracted drivers.

“I don’t usually lock my door when I’m pumping gas because I’m there,” St. Louis resident Ted Beaty said. “If I were to go inside and get a candy bar or a soda, I would.”

That mindset is why police are asking people to stay vigilant, lock their doors, take their keys, and hide their belongings.

“I just kind of figured that they may notice that your car is unlocked as you walk away, and go into the convenience stores is one thing, but while you’re at your car, yeah that’s a little bit scary,” Jacob Andereck said.

See an example here: