A new trend on the TikTok social media platform has led to an 85 percent increase in Hyundai and Kia car thefts in Los Angeles from last year, according to Police Chief Michel Moore.
“I believe it's influenced by this social media challenge,” Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission on Aug. 30. “And [the] senselessness of that cannot be overstated. It is important ... to prevent this that we bring this to the public's attention.”
These viral videos, which have been circulating on TikTok since May, show people how to break into Hyundai and Kia vehicles made between 2010 and 2021.
These cars were targeted because they lack an ignition immobilizer system, making them vulnerable to hot-wiring—a method to start a car without a key, according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
People are hot-wiring the vehicles by disassembling a portion of the ignition and using a USB cord to start the engine, according to Moore. The videos have been viewed “tens of thousands of times, which we believe is influencing the theft of these vehicles,” he said.
It’s estimated that 1,600 Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been stolen this year so far. The department is recovering about 55 percent of the vehicles, with most of them being found both in other parts of the city and outside the city.
Moore is asking residents who own one of these cars to install a steering wheel lock, which can offer “both a visual and physical deterrent” to thefts.
Los Angeles isn’t the only city where such car thefts are on the rise. In Chicago, authorities reported a 767 percent increase in Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts since the beginning of July.
The two car makers stated that their products meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, various media outlets have reported.
Overall car thefts increased by 15 percent in Los Angeles last year, according to the LAPD.