17-year-old suspect charged with stealing vehicle as Kia, Hyundai thefts remain a problem

The same teenager may be connected to as many as eight vehicle thefts in the Charlotte area.
Car thieves are continuing to target Kias and Hyundais using a USB cord to hotwire the vehicles.
Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 9:59 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A social media trend that teaches people how to hot wire two specific types of car has owners of those vehicles taking extra care to keep theirs safe.

This crime wave on Kias and Hyundais started last summer, and continues to be an issue now.

Most recently, police said a teenager could be the one who has used a simple phone charger to steal cars in Charlotte.

According to a CMPD search warrant, police seized the phone of a 17-year-old person of interest they said could be responsible for as many as eight car thefts last fall. Nobody has been arrested yet, but police are hoping to soon curb this type of crime.

“Anyone that has a Kia or a Hyundai that’s 2008 or later, should be aware of this situation,” CMPD Detective William Wallace said last year. “We’re seeing these property cases as well, in juveniles are prevalent suspects.”

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

The mass stealing of Hyundai and Kia vehicles started last July, after social media showed how to bypass the car’s ignition by using a USB cord.

According to the latest CMPD warrant, a Kia Optima was stolen from an apartment complex in northeast Charlotte on the morning of Oct. 10, 2022. That stolen car was then seen on surveillance footage at a Bojangles on North Tryon Street later that morning, and police say a receipt inside the vehicle, suggest that the 17-year-old was inside the vehicle after it was stolen.

Those two pieces of evidence were enough to charge him with larceny of motor vehicle.

CMPD is looking to connect the same teen with seven other stolen vehicle cases, all of which were later dumped in the same area as the Kia Optima, and all within a half mile of each other in the same neighborhood. That neighborhood also happens to be the one where the 17-year-old suspect lives.

Police said they also found the juvenile’s phone was connected to at least one of the vehicles recovered.

As the car-theft problems continue, advice given by police last summer remains effective.

“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,” authorities said.

At this time, the teenage suspect has not been charged with any additional crimes beyond his initial larceny charge from last October.

Related: Insurance expert weighs in on companies dropping some Hyundai, Kia models from coverage