Police: Duo arrested in gas station car theft scheme

Devron Holland, Latonya Harris are charged with motor vehicle theft

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An 18-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman were arrested Monday evening after working together to snatch keys and money out of woman's hands and then steal her car at a gas station in the Cedar Hill Estates neighborhood, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. 

Devron Holland and Latonya Harris are charged with unarmed robbery and motor vehicle theft. 

Officers were patrolling in the nearby Hyde Park area on the city's Westside about 10:30 p.m. Monday when they spotted a gray Honda Accord that had been taken several minutes earlier from a Chevron gas station on San Juan Avenue. 

Police said they pulled over the car, took the two suspects into custody and then contacted the victim.

The 28-year-old victim told police that she had been in the area to collect rent from a tenant when she stopped at the Chevron station, where she was approached by a "very polite" man who started talking to her. 

According to the arrest reports, while the man was talking to the victim, a woman came up from behind and snatched the car keys and cash out of the victim's hand. 

"Usually, this type of thing happens when people are pumping their gas. Sometimes they'll just have their car running, and they'll just come and jump and the car and take it," said Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst. "She was away from her car but still had her keys and her money in her hand and the person was able to snatch it."

The victim chased the two to her vehicle to try to stop them and then called police to report the car theft. 

"She did the right thing by contacting police. They do have extra task force groups out there on the streets that had a community response team that's out there patrolling, so they were able to sport the car very quickly, and stop them before they were able to get away," Smith said. 

Police said the victim identified Holland and Harris, who were pulled over in her car, as the two she has seen at the gas station. They were both arrested. 

Both Holland and Harris are being held without bond at the Duval County Jail, according to jail records.

Smith warned that these types of crimes will only increase as the holidays approach. 

"When you're at a gas station, it's important to have your money and your keys in your purse or your pocket outside the car, with the door locked while you're pumping gas," Smith said. 

As for talking to people, Smith said, it's best to politely decline a conversation with someone and create distance.

"Try to let them know you don't want to engage in conversation," Smith said. "But the main thing is to keep valuables out of your hand and make sure that your car is locked."

The owner of the gas station told News4Jax that there was security footage of the incident, but they were only allowed to give it to police.