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He's so polite, but hide your keys

A string of car thefts is blamed on a 13-year-old boy who charmed his way into victims' homes.

Published March 3, 2005

TAMPA - Police say he is 4 feet 11, weighs all of 90 pounds, and has a polite demeanor to match his sweet face.

"I tell you, this is what you want your kid to look and act like," said Tampa police Sgt. Buddy Brogdon.

But the 13-year-old Tampa boy faces multiple criminal charges following a string of car thefts in which he charmed his way into Central Park homes and walked out casually with residents' car keys, Brogdon said.

"He is just so smooth, he's like a trained professional," Brogdon said. "Can I have a glass of water, please? Can I use the bathroom?' The residents say sure. He drinks the water, leaves. Then you realize your keys are gone, and he's out joyriding."

The most recent three car thefts happened within the past week, Brogdon said - after the teen spent 21 days in a county juvenile facility following his Feb. 2 arrest for six auto thefts, four burglaries and four misdemeanor thefts.

Shirlaine Hicks, 59, a resident of Tampa Park Apartments, was one of the boy's latest victims.

"That little boy stole my car, a 2001 Ford Focus," Hicks said. "He asked to use the phone, and then he said, "Can I use the bathroom? I have to go real bad.' He looked like a little sweet child."

In one case, Brogdon said, the boy used his 10-year-old sister as an accomplice. She stood in the doorway of one apartment and sneaked the car keys into her pocket while he distracted the resident, Brogdon said.

Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said that in addition to the Tampa cases, the boy faces 22 charges from other local agencies.

Brogdon said the boy, whose mother died two years ago, had no contact with police until November. But in recent months, even his grandmother - who is raising him and his sister - got fed up.

"We have got to intervene in this kid's life. He needs direction," Brogdon said. "As smart and cool as this kid is, there's nothing this kid can't accomplish. But if we don't turn him around, down the line he will get violent."

McElroy said the boy's sister will be placed in a mentoring program through a local church. The boy will be enrolled in a nine-month Department of Juvenile Justice diversionary program, she said.

[Last modified March 3, 2005, 01:01:17]

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