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City of Cleveland may take legal action against TikTok for 'aiding and abetting' car thefts

Car thefts have doubled in the first 3 months of 2023 compared to this time last year.
Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 18:37:52-04

CLEVELAND — Less than three months into 2023, car thefts in Cleveland are twice what they were at this time last year. The city's already suing Hyundai and Kiato try to recoup losses from those thefts, but now, city leaders are thinking about going after another company for aiding and abetting.

According to Cleveland Police records, so far into 2023, there have been 1,280 car thefts and only 9 arrests. This time compared to 2022, there were 608.

“It doesn't surprise me that the number overall is because it’s just a continuing problem,” said Ryan Bokoch, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor.

The City of Cleveland has filed a lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai makers citing their failure to install anti-theft devices. But the Public Safety Committee tells News 5 they want to take a step further. City attorneys are now looking at what legal action they can take against the app TikTok.

“The TikTok platform, their video, you can steal a car in less than a minute,” said Michael Polensek, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee. “We know there are car thieves all over the state of Ohio, that’s a given, but they have aided and abetted car thievery.”

Cleveland Police said District 3, which includes downtown, is their biggest concern, especially after an officer was shot in the arm and leg Tuesday. From January through March of 2023 there've been 304 car thefts alone in District 3.

“This violence is ramping up,” Polensek added. “Our men and women in blue are in greater jeopardy than ever before and our citizens are.”

Nadine Goodwin said she was visiting Cleveland from New York, staying at a hotel downtown. When she woke up the next morning, she said her car was gone.

“I cried like a baby in the middle of the hotel lobby because I just couldn’t believe it,” Goodwin said.

She had to get a rental car to drive three hours back to New York. Cleveland Police have yet to locate her car.

“This is not a one person, this is not an incident, this is a catastrophe," Goodwin added.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office said it’s in the process of prosecuting 300 car theft cases starting from July of 2022. Bokoch adds the best solution remains putting criminals behind bars despite the exhausted resources.

“Cases aren’t always solved immediately, it can take a while to get results back,” said Bokoch. “The big thing is prosecuting the offenders that are responsible for the vast majority of these.”

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