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St. Pete Police warn about troubling car theft trend targeting Kia, Hyundai cars

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Posted at 6:56 PM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 18:56:42-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.  — St. Petersburg Police have a message for drivers: lock your car doors. It comes as law enforcement across the country see a troubling trend of car thefts targeting specific brands.

Since July 11, St. Pete Police say they’ve had 56 cars stolen and 23 of them have been Kia and Hyundai models, noting that is about 41 percent.

“What the thieves are doing is they’re defeating the steering column, and they’re able to override the ignition mechanism, allowing them to steal the vehicle much more easily and without a key or a key fob,” said Juan Cortes, a Property Crimes Detective with St. Pete Police.

It’s not just a theme seen in St. Pete. Det. Cortes explained it may be related to a social media trend happening across the country.

“It’s kind of trickled its way down south, and it seems that it’s like wildfire. It’s burning through all the states now,” said Cortes.

Agencies all across the US are posting warnings to social media, from Florida to Nebraska, Minnesota, and Illinois.

St. Pete Police said the targeted cars are Kia and Hyundai models 2021 and older that use an inserted key instead of a push button ignition.

“You have victims that may be leaving their vehicles unlocked, which gives them an easier access inside the vehicle,” said Det. Cortes.

Police advise people if you have one of these cars to not leave your key in your car and to lock your doors. Police also said you can park your car in front of another car or use an anti-theft device to help protect your car.

Hyundai sent ABC Action News this statement:

Hyundai Motor America is concerned with the rise in local auto thefts. The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority. These vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and engine immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles. Hyundai customers who have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151.

Kia also sent ABC Action News a statement:

Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim levels in your area. All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change. All Kia vehicles for sale in the U.S. meet or exceed Federal motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (Kia).