Car thefts on the rise, dangerous social media challenge causing concern

Thieves are stealing vehicles without a key.
A troubling and dangerous trend has made its way to the Charlotte area.
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 10:27 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A troubling and dangerous trend has made its way to the Charlotte area.

Thieves are stealing vehicles without a key.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say just in the past two weeks, there have 200-plus auto theft incidents. Last week, the total was 81.

“It’s incredibly concerning,” said Detective William Wallace. “And so obviously the first step is to look at trends throughout these auto thefts and see if there may be some reason for the sudden spike that we’ve had.”

Wallace says Kia and Hyundai vehicles made up 30 percent of incidents.

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“Anyone who has a Kia or Hyundai that’s 2008 or later should be aware of this situation,” he said. “From what we see there’s no specific location or if it’s a parking garage or in your parked driveway. It can happen anywhere. If your vehicle is accessible to the public in any way, shape, or form can be accessible to these individuals trying to steal your car.”

So, how are thieves doing it?

“There’s a social media trend right now, in which suspects have found a way to circumvent the ignition to these vehicles and therefore gain access to them without using the key,” Wallace said.

The social media trend: the “Kia Challenge.” Mainly on TikTok, criminals are able to ‘hot wire’ a vehicle using a USB cord.

Wallace says juveniles are often the suspects in cases.

“We’re seeing these property cases in which juveniles are prevalent suspects,” he said.

According to CMPD, Hyundai and Kia thefts have increased each week since June 20.

There have been 87 total incidents with 61 actual thefts and 26 attempts. CMPD’s North division has the most reported thefts with 19.

It’s not just homes and public parking areas where these thefts are happening.

WBTV found car dealerships including Planet Mitsubishi and American Car Center were also hit.

“Lock your vehicle again well lit areas, areas where there’s people areas where there’s cameras or video surveillance, be aware of your surroundings and be aware of the people around your vehicle. These are all things that we encourage any vehicle owner to be to look for,” Wallace said.

He also recommended using steering wheel locks and remembering to lock your doors.

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