TikTok trend leads to uptick in stolen vehicles, dealerships offer fixes

A growing trend getting more popular, here, across western Mass.
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 5:15 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - A social media trend, going viral on TikTok and taking over the country. Certain models of Hyundais and Kias were stolen, all for a laugh.

A growing trend getting more popular, here, across western Mass.

“This year alone, the number of motor vehicle thefts in the city has more than doubled. and that is directly attributed to this TikTok challenge and stolen Hyundai’s and Kia’s. 75%, roughly of the stolen motor vehicles in the city are Hyundai’s or Kia’s. it’s not your typical stolen vehicle, which may take a little time to recover, these cars are broken into, stolen, and then really dumped. as part of the game,” said Springfield Police Spokesperson Ryan Walsh.

Springfield police spokesperson Ryan Walsh tells Western Mass News, that those stealing the cars are often teenagers.

“It’s 14-year-olds. It’s 15-year-olds. up to 19-year-olds that we’re seeing. In some instances, these juveniles, depending on their age, will be arrested. but, you know, there’s no real repercussions. You know, as we see over and over again the same kind of groups of kids that are stealing these vehicles and getting caught stealing these vehicles,” said Walsh.

This trend is now leading to more accidents on the road.

Just this week in Springfield, a 19-year-old fled from the police with two 14-year-olds in a stolen Hyundai on Tuesday. Then later crashed into two police cruisers and injured three officers in the process.

The thefts of these particular cars involve bypassing the ignition using only a USB cord.

But it can only be done to models made before 2021 that are not equipped with an immobilizer.

This is why both Hyundai and Kia put a recall in place, a safety measure now also growing in popularity among car owners in Western mass.

“We do approximately 10 of these cars per day. we’ve done 1,362 of these cars so far since the recall was launched,” said Mike Aubrey.

Aubrey, the parts & service director at Gary Rome Hyundai, tells me installing the software can go a long way when providing an extra layer of safety. A process he says is fairly simple.

“It doesn’t look like anything. It’s just like updating your cell phone,” said Aubrey.

According to Aubrey, for the immobilizer to be active and work best in your car, you have to make sure to lock it using the key fob.

But even doing that can’t fully protect your car from possible theft.

“Unfortunately, even if you get the fixes that your ignition doesn’t start with those USB cables, individuals are still breaking into cars to see if they can use those USB cables to start it and steal it,” said Walsh.

That’s why both Walsh and Aubrey are also recommending not fully relying on technology and taking an extra step for safety.

Like using a steering wheel locking device like this one. Which can be seen by anyone, even with the windows up.