CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said the number of stolen Kias and Hyundais has spiked by 1,800% this year.
In a news conference Thursday, police spoke about the crime trends they have seen from Jan. 1 to March 31 of this year. The overall crime rate is up 7%, but violent crime is down 6%, they said. Property crime has increased by 10%.
Compared to this time last year, CMPD said they’ve arrested 13% more people and seized 12% more guns.
Police said the number of stolen cars, which are up 99% more than at this time last year, is the biggest contributor to the higher crime rate. They say the reason for that is because of a social media trend that started last summer; authorities said a video began circulating that shows a simple way to steal Hyundai and Kia cars.
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According to CMPD, Kias and Hyundais account for more than half of all of the stolen cars in Charlotte, which is an increase of 1,800%. In the first three months of 2023, 95% of those thefts were committed by someone under the age of 18, police said. Police said many of the suspects aren’t learning their lesson because there are many repeat offenders.
More than 800 of about 1,400 cars reported stolen in Charlotte in the first three months of 2023 were Kias or Hyundais, compared to just 44 at this time last year.
“There are people behind all those numbers,” Maj. Luke Sells said. “So when I say 800 people, that couldn’t go to the doctor or couldn’t go to school today because their car was just missing.”
Those include people like Morgan Wells, whose Kia Forte was stolen last year.
“It was terrible,” she said. “It was such a hassle.”
After several repairs, she got her car back, but can’t believe how many others have suffered from the same reality.
“That is so upsetting, so disappointing, horrendous,” Wells said. “That just makes me really upset.”
It’s also upsetting to officers, who time and time again are responding to the same calls.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it was frustrating,” Sells said. “It’s frustrating for them, it’s frustrating for us to look at those numbers because we do spend a tremendous amount of time on those calls for service.”
In response, CMPD said it has turned more attention toward the issue. Compared to this time last year, officers have made 64% more auto theft arrests.
Police said they’re also hosting another steering wheel club anti-theft giveaway on April 29 for Kia & Hyundai owners. It’s happening from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at 3200 Wilkinson Boulevard, and to be eligible, you might have your vehicle registration and arrived in a 2011 through 2019 model Hyundai or Kia with a key start ignition (no push start).
Street takeover response
In response to street takeovers, which Channel 9 has covered extensively, CMPD has also upped its response. Channel 9 has covered multiple incidents where groups of drivers gathered to perform burnouts and other dangerous stunts while blocking highly-trafficked Charlotte roads.
Police have said they’re working to crack down on these events with Operation Street Takeover. The department has arrested dozens of people in the process.
“We have a message to anyone who thinks it’s OK to engage in dangerous street stunts,” Sell said. “We will exercise all of our resources and legal avenues to seize your vehicles and charge you to the full extent of the law.”
CMPD said since February, officers have made 11 arrests and 78 citations. They’ve also seized seven firearms and towed 34 vehicles related to street takeovers.
As we head into summer, they department said it will increase patrols in areas that attract large crowds, including apartment complexes, pools, malls and greenways.
- Police crack down on street takeovers in Charlotte
- Drivers caught on camera performing burnouts, stunts near Uptown intersection
- ‘No teeth’: Prosecutors face challenges in stopping Charlotte’s street racers
There is a bill in the North Carolina House, which would levy harsher penalties for people involved.
House Bill 429 would make it a misdemeanor to drive a car during a street takeover.
The driver would also be fined at least $1,000. a second offense in a two-year period would be a felony charge.
That carries a minimum fine of twice the value of the car involved.
The bill would also charge people who organize or even watch a street takeover with a misdemeanor.
The bill was referred to the Transportation Committee.
There were 972 total shootings in Charlotte from Jan. 1 to March 31, according to CMPD. Those include homicides, shootings in which people were injured, shots into occupied dwellings and other types of firearm shootings.
CMPD says that’s a 2% decrease from the same time period last year, when there were 993 shootings.
(WATCH BELOW: ‘Lawlessness’: 9 Investigates a rise in reckless driving on Charlotte streets)
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