Teenager killed after stealing car in Charlotte, police say TikTok challenge a factor

A 15-year-old died after crashing on South Tryon Street this past weekend.
Police said a teen's death was likely related to a Tiktok trend that shows people how to steal some Kia and Hyundai models.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 10:17 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A teenager who was killed in a crash early Sunday morning was likely participating in a stunt first seen on social media, police said.

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), a 2015 Kia Optima was reported stolen on March 24 in the Steele Creek area.

Two days later, roughly 10 minutes from where the car was reported stolen, a 15-year-old crashed the car on South Tryon Street and died at the scene.

Police said a popular TikTok challenge has young people stealing Kia and Hyundai cars, and since it began last summer, police have seen a tremendous increase in thefts involving those makes.

From Jan. 1 to Feb. 12, nearly 700 vehicles were stolen in Charlotte, over half of which were Kias or Hyundais.

To be exact, 355 Kias and Hyundais were reported stolen over that time frame, a 1,265 percent increase from the same time in 2022 when only 26 such incidents were reported.

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

CMPD said the top 5 targeted Kia and Hyundai models this year have been:

  1. Hyundai Elantra
  2. Hyundai Sonata
  3. Kia Optima
  4. Kia Forte
  5. Kia Soul

Nearly all of the vehicles stolen range from years 2011-2020.

“The TikTok challenge has come along and shown folks how to be able to steal these vehicles relatively quickly,” Chris Furtick, a cybersecurity expert and VP of Client Solutions for Fortalice Solutions, said.

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

Furtick said some Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been stolen in as little as 30 seconds due to the so-called challenge, which uses a USB cord and sometimes a screwdriver to steal the vehicles.

CMPD said before the social media trend started, the city averaged 54 car thefts per week for all vehicles. New data from 2023 shows the average of car thefts increased to an average of 113 vehicles per week for all vehicles.

“Over the past six to nine months, these Kia and Hyundai, not all of them all them have been affected, but they have a relatively large increase in them being stolen and it’s due to the manufacturers design,” Furtick said.

The rise in thefts caused by the TikTok challenges raises the question of parenting kids and teens during the era of social media trends.

“We have to train them to think with a critical eye before they do these types of challenges,” Furtick said. “We need to let our children know that it’s okay to walk away when their friends or someone else is behaving in a way that’s somewhat criminal or dangerous. They also need to understand even if they see something on TikTok or social media that that has real consequences, potentially event death.”

From June 20, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2022, more than 600 car thefts and attempted thefts happened in Charlotte. Police said 56% of stolen cars were found.

Because of the surge in thefts, the car makers released a service update to help reduce thefts of the vehicles.

Related: Hyundai, Kia update security after TikTok challenge thefts