CLEVELAND — A social-media-fueled trend of stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles is prompting some drivers and law enforcement to take proactive measures.
In mid-July, Angela Yapp woke to find her Hyundai Sonata missing from its usual parking spot outside her westside Cleveland apartment. When a nearby business let her look at its surveillance footage from overnight, she realized the car had been stolen.
“They basically busted my back window out, went in the front, climbed back out the window… went to the car that they were in, then they climbed back in the back window and went in the front of the car,” Yapp said of what she saw on the video. “A couple seconds later they just pulled off in the car.”
After reporting the car stolen, Yapp said police recovered it less than 24 hours later when it was abandoned in a car wash parking lot about 20 blocks away. The back window was smashed, the steering column broken and there was minor damage to the vehicle’s undercarriage.
“It’s a really big inconvenience when you have to slowly put something back together that belonged to you,” she said.
As soon as she had the vehicle back, Yapp said she bought a steering wheel lock for herself and her husband, who also drives a Hyundai Sonata.
The next day, thieves targeted his car.
“Once they busted the window out and kind of dove in a little bit – didn’t even get all the way in – they saw it was a push-start, so they jumped back out and ran,” she said.
Hyundai and Kia drivers around the country have been similarly targeted. Some blame a viral TikTok video which demonstrates how to steal the vehicles.
The video highlights how thieves can use USB phone chargers to bypass ignition systems in 2011-2021 model Kia vehicles and Hyundai vehicles made between 2015-2021. The cars all have keyed starts and no immobilizer systems to prevent the engines from being started without the correct keys.
On September 12, Fairview Park police responded to a reported vehicle theft at an apartment complex. Investigators said a group of people pulled into the parking lot around 1 a.m., broke into several cars and took off in less than 2 minutes. Two cars at the complex, along with one car from an adjacent lot, were stolen. Several others were damaged.
All of the vehicles were Hyundais and Kias.
“We’re like every other city in this region,” said Fairview Park Police Chief Paul Shepard. “One day they’ll come out to Fairview Park, the next time they go out to a southern community or an eastern community and they make their rounds.”
After a string of thefts in Westlake, police there connected with Hyundai to provide free Club steering wheel locks on a first-come, first served basis. Police said they ran out of all 108 Clubs in less than 12 hours.
The Fairview Park Police Department is considering a similar giveaway for its residents. The chief there recommends Kia and Hyundai drivers use anti-theft devices or park in a garage if possible. He also hopes neighbors will look out for one another.
“See something, say something. If you see something suspicious, call us, call your local police department,” said Chief Shepard.
Yapp said the steering wheel locks she purchased have offered some peace of mind, but she’s still constantly worried about her car being stolen.
“Going to the store I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh I forgot to put my Club on my car.’ So you run in the store and then run back out because you forgot to put your Club on. And every morning I’m just automatically looking out my window like, ‘Is my car out there?’” she said.
Fairview Park has recovered all of the vehicles stolen earlier in the month and identified several teenage persons of interest. Yapp said no one has been arrested for the theft and damage to her family’s cars. She urges anyone who sees the social media trend not to act upon it.
“Please stop. Just stop. It’s not worth it,” she said.
Chief Shepard added, “The people that are doing this are putting themselves at risk, they’re putting others at risk. They’re committing felonies.”
News 5 reached out to both Kia and Hyundai corporate offices. Both companies said they’re working to supply police departments across the country with steering wheel locks upon request.
Additionally, Hyundai plans to offer security kits for purchase at its dealerships starting October 1, 2022. The kits will target the method of entry thieves have been using to bypass the ignition system. The company plans to release more details next week.
Hyundai customers who have questions can contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151.
Kia customers with questions regarding their specific vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance center directly at 1-800-333-4542(4Kia).
According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, there are more than 52,000 registered 2011-2021 Kia models and more than 24,000 2016-2021 Hyundai models in Cuyahoga County.
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