ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Detectives with the St. Petersburg Police Department are seeing an unusual trend in auto thefts this month.
Police said 23 of the 56 cars stolen since July 11 were Kia or Hyundai models. That’s about 41% of vehicle thefts, according to the department.
Most have been older Kia and Hyundai cars that don’t have an engine immobilizer, electronic security technology that keeps cars from being hot-wired and stolen, and can be started without a key.
Viral videos circulating on YouTube and TikTok show people breaking into Kia cars, tampering with the steering column, and turning on the vehicles as part of the Kia Challenge.
Sergeant Cody Lance told 8 On Your Side teenagers are committing many of the thefts.
“They tell us they learned it on the internet or learned it from another friend, those persons get arrested, they go to jail and tell the other people, and it continues to spread like wildfire,” Sgt. Lance said.
It’s what detectives believe happened with Harmon Haley’s Kia.
“It was kind of shocking, I thought that with newer cars that you had to have a key,” Haley said.
The St. Petersburg Police Department says residents should lock their vehicles to avoid becoming a victim of theft.
Both Kia and Hyundai have phone numbers for owners to call with concerns.
- Kia, 1-800-333-4542
- Hyundai, 1800-633-5151