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Car thieves targeting Kia & Hyundai models after viral TikTok challenge

You should always lock your vehicle, keep your keys in your possession and conceal any valuables from plain sight, police say.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nearly 200 vehicles have been stolen in Charlotte within the last two weeks, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said. 

In a video posted to its YouTube channel, CMPD shared some tips to help people avoid becoming a victim of car theft. Those tips include always locking your vehicle, keeping your keys in your possession and concealing any valuables out of sight from would-be thieves. That's especially important for weapons. 

"We've had over 500 guns stolen in this city," Officer Justin Davies said. "Please, if you own a firearm, do not leave it in your car. If you have to, put it in a locked gun box somewhere in your trunk."

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Davies also said people shouldn't leave their car unattended while running, whether it's at the gas station or in their driveway. It only takes a few seconds for someone to run up, jump inside and take off.

Thieves target Hyundai and Kia models as social media trend takes off 

Police said thieves are especially targeting Hyundai and Kia models, which is possibly connected to a social media trend called the "Kia Challenge." 

"Based on a social media trend, individuals have found a way to circumvent the ignition to Kias and Hyundais after 2008 models and later, resulting in them being able to steal the vehicle without needing a key," William Wallace, a CMPD detective in the central division, said. 

CMPD has seen an increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts since June 20, with 61 thefts and 26 attempts.

Wallace said the evidence in many cases points back to the social media challenge.

“Criminals are always adapting, and we have to adapt with them," Wallace said. "We got to update with the trends, keep in touch with what’s on social media, and that’s what we’re doing with this is try to get out in front of it and hopefully make people aware of the situation before it gets bigger." 

Police in Charlotte are urging drivers of these cars to get a club or steering wheel lock and a kill switch for the ignition to prevent theft. 

"These relatively cheaper options can help prevent you from getting your $30,000 car stolen and having to pay for that," Wallace added. 

Kia America said in a statement to WCNC Charlotte: 

"Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim level vehicles in your area. As of the current 2022 Model Year, all Kia vehicles have an engine immobilizer fitted as standard. 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 (4Kia)."

Hyundai Motor America sent the following statement to WCNC Charlotte:

"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."

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