The make of the car – a Kia Sportage SUV – may be at the heart of the matter.
For months, Kia owners across the United States have been reporting the same problem: their cars keep getting stolen by thieves using a simple USB cable.
Police departments from New York to Los Angeles are increasingly concerned about Kia thefts – which are on the rise due to a vulnerability in previous models that has been widely shared in social media videos detailing exactly how to steal the vehicles in seconds.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said teens in Monday’s crash may have participated in the trend – although the department has not released evidence linking him to the theft. Buffalo police did not immediately return a request for comment early Thursday.
Social media platforms say they are trying to contain the videos. TikTok said it “does not condone this behavior, which categorically violates our policies and will be removed if found on our platform.” Trending and vulnerability articles also appear at the top of Google search results.
Gramaglia said car-related crime in the region is up 90% from the same time last year, and that there are “many cities across the country that are considering reviewing or have brought lawsuits against Kia because of the ease with which they are able to steal these cars.”
Kia America acknowledged the issue in a statement Thursday, saying it was “concerned about increased vehicle theft in certain areas” and is working on software to secure the targeted vehicles.
“Criminals target vehicles with a steel key and a ‘turn to start’ ignition system as opposed to those with a key fob and a ‘push button to start’ system” , the company said, adding that it is working closely with law enforcement officials “to provide steering wheel locks free of charge to affected owners of steel-key Kia vehicles not originally equipped. of an immobilizer”.
Kia said its new models are safer.
“All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the start of the year or as an operational change, and all Kia vehicles meet or exceed federal motor vehicle safety standards.”
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Police in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago say they are also battling rising car thefts amid social media tutorials. Los Angeles police said Kia and Hyundai models made between 2010 and 2021 were targeted because they lacked an immobilizer.
“The TikTok challenge is just teaching people how to do it,” said Roe Conn of the Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Office, which includes Chicago.
KIA & Hyundai theft alert!#stpete pd observes an unusual trend. As of July 11, 23 out of 56 cars stolen are 2021 and older Kia/Hyundai models, which use keys to start.
Anyone with a KIA/Hyundai that uses a key, **please** #lock up pic.twitter.com/l2ZwVHP7cd
— St. Peter’s Police (@StPetePD) July 27, 2022
Many Kia owners who were victims of the crime say their cars were stolen right outside their home.
In August, Kia owner Bettina Bausa told New Orleans news channel WWL-TV she was watching a movie at home when she heard someone outside trying to steal his 2013 Kia Optima.
Bausa managed to scare off the thief by knocking on the window. His The vehicle, which had a shattered window and evidence that someone had tampered with the ignition key switch, had been targeted two nights in a row.
In Buffalo, victims of Monday’s car crash were later named by police Marcus Webster, 19; Scam Swazine, 17 years old; Kevin Payne, 16; and Ahjanae Harper, 14, who has one child.
“It’s a terrible, terrible result for these young children who had their whole lives ahead of them,” Gramaglia said.