Car thefts are a big problem pretty much everywhere you go, but in certain parts of the United States, it’s a crisis that has reached epidemic levels. And two brands in particular are at the centre of this story.
According to multiple sources, thieves are targeting Kia and Hyundai vehicles for being especially easy to steal. This has reportedly been happening for a while now, but a new TikTok challenge has caused thefts to surge again.
One content creator posted a video in early July showing how a Kia or Hyundai could be broken into and started using a USB cable, Newsweek reported, kickstarting the trend. The St Petersburg Police Department in Florida tweeted that vehicles that use a key to start (i.e. no keyless entry or push-button start) are susceptible to this method.
It continued that out of the 53 cars (as of July 27) that were stolen in the city, 23 were Kias and Hyundais, so there’s clearly a trend happening here. In some places, the ratio is even higher: in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the trend apparently originated, cars from the South Korean manufacturers – both owned by the Hyundai Motor Company – made up 66% of all vehicles stolen. The brands have become so popular among thieves that the latter have become known as Kia Boys and Kia Girls.
Milwaukee has been hit particularly hard by the scourge of car theft – the city registered 10,479 cases last year, more than double 2020’s figure and triple that of 2019. Incidences of stolen Kias and Hyundais in Milwaukee jumped a massive 2,556% by June 2021 – from just 102 thefts recorded in the first six months of the previous year. This, WISN Channel 12 wrote, prompted authorities to consider suing the two firms.
The cars were stolen mostly for joyrides that were reckless enough to cause accidents, injuries and even deaths. Half of the suspects were under the age of 16, the local police department said. Such was the notoriety of these crimes that they were even the subject of a recent documentary on YouTube.
The thefts were attributed to a lack of an immobiliser (which prevents a car from being started unless the correct key is present) in these vehicles, mostly Kias built after 2011 and Hyundais after 2015. For its part, Kia’s American arm said that as of 2022, all cars come with an immobiliser as standard; both companies also claimed their vehicles “meet or exceed” Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, reported USA Today.
Of course, car thefts are nothing new – especially in Malaysia – and remain commonplace even as car security technology gets more and more advanced. In 2019, The Sun reported that local thieves were able to nick even luxury cars with immobilisers, using a ‘smart key programmer’ plugged into a vehicle’s ECU to copy the security programme onto a blank key. The latter could then be used to start the car without issue.
This goes to show that just because your car comes with the latest anti-theft tech doesn’t mean it’s safe. Always make sure your car is locked and parked in a very visible and brightly-lit area (particularly one with security) and avoid leaving personal items and valuables in your car. You should also consider investing in a steering wheel lock or additional anti-theft devices – every deterrent means more time needed to steal a car, discouraging potential thieves.
Also remember that this particular trend started through social media platforms like TikTok, so if you see any posts portraying criminal activity – or even one telling people how to act these crimes – make sure to report them.
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