Chicago police on Tuesday issued community alerts for different parts of the city in regards to dozens of motor vehicle thefts, warning residents in the areas with certain vehicle makes to be on high alert.
But the problem isn't new, and it's not limited to the city of Chicago. And according to officials, it all stems from TikTok videos.
Community alerts issued show areas of the city's North and Northwest side have seen a spike in Hyundai and Kia thefts in just the past two weeks. In the 11th district, officials report seven thefts involving Kia and Hyundai vehicles, from Oct. 19 through Oct. 27. The times the vehicles are stolen range from 1 p.m. in broad daylight, to dark, overnight hours.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
Another community alert issued Tuesday for the city's 25th district has similar details, with 11 Kia or Hyundai vehicles stolen from Oct. 17 to Oct. 29. The hours the thefts take place varies, with some occurring during the day, and others in the evening or overnight.
Officials say thieves specifically target Kias manufactured from 2011-2021, and Hyundais manufactured between 2013-2021, because neither car is protected by a security device called a "standard immobilizer" -- a security part which stops a car from being started without having the key.
According to authorities, the problem is becoming more widespread due to how-to videos on TikTok, often dubbed the "The Kia Hyundai Challenge."
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office in August said since July 1, there have been 642 Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts reported. Around this time last year, the office received only 74 reports.
“The TikTok challenge is just basically teaching people how to do it, which is pretty crazy,” Roe Conn, Cook County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said at the time.
“It’s a really significant situation for Kia and Hyundai owners right now, and the manufactures does need to do something here, they need to address this issue,” said Conn.
Just last week, police in suburban Oak Park issued a similar warning. Also last week, Chicago police issued a community alert for the city's Portage Park neighborhood after eight Kia or Hyundai vehicles were reported stolen.
Officials in Chicago reported just 46 thefts involving vehicles manufactured by those companies in the month of May. In August, that number surged to 676, making up one-third of all car thefts in the city.
“They were able to pretty much damage the whole front end of the vehicle,” said Raymond Taylor, who's vehicle was recently stolen right in front of his Calment City home. “You see the damage to the tires, rear wheels, bumper and radiator everything. I mean, this type of damage will probably cost you anywhere between $5,000 at a body shop to fix.”
What Kia and Hyundai Say They Are Doing
Hyundai and Kia made the immobilizers standard on all vehicles beginning in 2021. Hyundai told TechCrunch earlier this year that they would begin selling and installing glass break sensor security kits for vehicles at dealerships, but it is unclear whether those kits would be available to car owners.
Both companies told NBC 5 Responds that they are working toward a software update on older-model vehicles, but no release date has been set.
Kia is also working “closely with local law enforcement in affected areas to provide steering wheel lock devices at no cost to concerned owners of steel key-operated Kia vehicles.”
What Chicago Police Recommend For Kia and Hyundai Owners
The Cook County Sheriff's office is encouraging owners to protect their vehicles by installing anti-theft devices, including kill switches and steering wheel locks, car alarms with motion detection and vehicle tracking systems to try to deter the criminals.
The sheriff’s office also said car owners can also fill out a consent form online that way police can access data location information for your vehicle if its reported stolen. You can also put a sticker on your car letting would be criminals know that your vehicle is being tracked by the sheriff’s office.