SOUTH DAYTONA — Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen learned the hard way that leaving keys inside a vehicle is never a good idea.
A man stole Dinneen’s county-issued sport utility vehicle Sunday afternoon as the manager stood about 10 feet away checking on his boat, South Daytona police and Dinneen said Monday. the theft occurred about 10 minutes after the 61-year-old Dinneen had driven into a fenced-in, private lot owned by former County Councilman Art Giles.
“He floored it, he just floored it,” Dinneen said Monday, describing how the car thief roared off in his GMC Terrain.
Dinneen said he was going to check the cover on his boat before heading to the gym and then to his home to prepare for a trip to Washington, where he was to be part of a group meeting with President Barack Obama.
Because Dinneen’s wallet — which included cash, credit cards and his identification — was taken along with the car, the county manager could not go on the much-anticipated journey with County Chair Frank Bruno.
“You can’t get on a plane without ID,” Dinneen said Monday afternoon.
The theft occurred just after 3:30 p.m. Dinneen had driven onto the lot to check the cover on his boat. he left his keys in the ignition, but the engine was turned off and he closed the driver’s door.
The vehicle was several feet from the street, Dinneen said.
Suddenly, the county manager heard the SUV’s engine start.
“That’s what startled me,” Dinneen said. “It was a heart-racer, that’s for sure.”
Dinneen told South Daytona police he saw a man in his late teens or early 20s sitting in the driver’s seat of his vehicle. the county manager bolted toward the car, but by then the car thief was putting the SUV in reverse, the police report shows.
The suspect headed south on Segrave Street, then took a right onto big Tree Road and headed west, the report states. That’s when Dinneen lost sight of his vehicle. the driver of a black Chevy Camaro or Pontiac Firebird who had been parked near Giles’ lot took off behind the SUV, Dinneen told police.
Besides his wallet, the SUV also contained Dinneen’s briefcase, his golf clubs and golf bag, an iPhone 3GS, his wedding band and a University of Dayton ring.
Not one to leave his keys in the ignition normally, Dinneen said it didn’t occur to him that his car would be a target in a private, fenced-in lot.
“You would never leave your keys in the car at a 7-Eleven or at a restaurant,” Dinneen said, “but who would think that it would happen on private property?”
Dinneen said he and Bruno were going to join a group from the central Caribbean that was slated to meet with Obama to discuss bringing more business to that region, as well as jobs and infrastructure programs. Dinneen and Bruno were included in hopes that Florida — as a gateway to the Caribbean — would get a share of some of those opportunities, Dinneen said.
The group was scheduled to meet with the president sometime Monday between 2 and 5 p.m. in the Eisenhower Room at the White House, Dinneen said.
Reflecting on the incident Monday afternoon, Dinneen said he was grateful the car thief didn’t come after him.
“It was surprising,” he said. “You ask yourself, could I have done something differently?”