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Percent of stolen Kias, Hyundais triples after TikTok challenge goes viral, police data shows

Woman says friend's Kia was stolen from driveway while they were in garage
Hyundai Kia Engine Fires
Posted at 5:26 PM, Dec 09, 2022

CLEVELAND — More than 3,000 cars have been stolen in Cleveland this year. News 5 Investigators analyzed the data and found the percentages of Kias and Hyundais tripled since a TikTok challenge swept the city.

"Right here, just pulling nails out of wood,” said Erica Sadler as she showed off her passion project: restoring antique furniture in her garage.

Erica Sadler in her garage, where she restores old furniture.

"We were just removing this fabric,” Sadler said. That's what she was doing last Saturday when she says car thieves snatched her friend’s newer Kia Forte in broad daylight from her driveway near W. Schaaf in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood.

"Right there, right there on the other side of the door — yeah, definitely feel violated,” Sadler said.

Sadler said she heard two doors close and went to check things out.

The Kia was still in her driveway, but not for much longer.

Just outside Sadler's garage, where her friends Kia was stolen.

"Until the headlights came on and the car just started rolling backwards,” she said.

Sadler’s friend became part of an all-too-familiar fate for Kia and Hyundai owners in Cleveland.

"They just drive around and wait until somebody's not paying attention,” Sadler said.

Car theft has been prevalent in the city’s western neighborhoods, including a 38% increase year-to-date in the Second District.

“I see these reports every single day in this area of cars being stolen or being found in this area,” said Sadler.

News 5 Investigators took a deep dive into recent data from Cleveland police.

There were just over 3,600 total car thefts so far this year.

From January 1st to May 31st, Kia and Hyundais made up just 5% of all cars stolen.

But since June, and the TikTok challenge that went viral in Northeast Ohio and across the U.S., the numbers spiked to 27% for Kia and 19% for Hyundai.

"They were in the car already, that quick,” said Sadler.

Just last month, Cleveland’s Public Safety Chair Mike Polensek told News 5, the last time he looked, there was only one officer working auto theft, with the police department down 326 officers.

Sadler’s friend is fortunate to have her car back. She says police found it two days ago on Stickney, less than a mile away.

"The column was stripped. Thankfully, all of her tools, and everything was in the garage with us. She didn't have much in the vehicle, but there was some damage,” said Sadler.

Sadler is now considering adding more surveillance to watch her driveway. She says her friend did what police recommend and invested in a club anti-theft device.

"She automatically went and got one,” said Sadler.

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