With Kia thefts increasing in Charlotte, here’s what owners can do

CHARLOTTE — Channel 9 sees police reports of stolen cars around Charlotte nearly every day, but a large number of those thefts are Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

“I realized my car wasn’t where I left it, and I was sort of jaw-dropped. I was stunned. I started looking around to make sure I wasn’t going crazy,” Nicholas Hill told Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz on Friday.

But he wasn’t going crazy. Someone stole Hill’s Kia right out of the parking lot at his north Charlotte apartment complex. Hill reached out to Channel 9 after seeing our story about another Kia stolen from the same apartment complex, and his car was actually stolen the night before that story aired.

“I was definitely very shocked,” Hill said. “I work very hard for what we have, and just for people to take advantage of someone like me.”

On Tuesday, he grabbed his keys and went to grab lunch, but he couldn’t find his Kia Forte.

“I know I parked over by the red car, and that’s when I saw the glass laying on the ground,” Hill said.

Hill said he knew he’d likely been hit by a thief who learned how to steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles from a social media challenge that shows would-be criminals how to switch the ignition without a key.

“It’s really unfortunate that they post those things for anybody and everybody to see,” Hill said.

With the popularity of the theft trend, some insurers are taking action. Last week, State Farm confirmed to Action 9 it temporarily stopped taking new customers who owned certain Hyundai and Kia models because of a rise in thefts. Multiple news reports say Progressive is also stopping its coverage of certain models, but didn’t say if any of those are Hyundais or Kias. Current customers of both insurers can keep their coverage.

Hill’s car was found all the way down in Rock Hill. He told Channel 9 he didn’t have much fuel in the car, so that was probably about as far as they could get without filling up.

While he’ll get his car back soon, Hill hopes something can be done to prevent the thefts.

One solution is getting a steering wheel lock, which can be found at hardware stores or auto parts stores. You put the device on your steering wheel and lock it into place, and it prevents the steering wheel from being fully operational. Kia said it’s giving steering wheel locks to police departments around the country to give them out to local owners, but the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department told Channel 9 they haven’t received any yet.

Kia is also rolling out a software update that’s aimed at preventing thefts.

The automaker sent a letter to car owners that said the update is designed to restrict the operation of the vehicle’s ignition system. Owners can have the update installed at a Kia dealership.

Police say a teenager could be connected to more than half a dozen car thefts across the Charlotte area. In one case this week, a warrant shows a Bojangles receipt led police to teen who could be tied to several local car thefts. It’s unclear if the juvenile has been charged yet.

‘It’s unfair for me’: Driver says thieves stole her Kia, wants TikTok held accountable

Martha Morris says she parked her Kia in front of her west Charlotte house before she went inside and fell asleep. But a phone call from the police woke her up. Police said her Kia had been stolen and recovered a few blocks away.

“I mind my business. I don’t bother nobody. I work hard for what I have and it’s unfair for me to have to deal with this,” she told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.

According to her police report, officers arrested a juvenile suspect but she’s still afraid someone else may steal her Kia or her daughter’s.

“I do worry about parking here. I also worry about parking outside of my own apartment complex because it is a non-gated community. Anybody can just come in and out,” her daughter Iyana Richardson said.

Police blame certain TikTok videos which show how easy it is to steal certain Hyundai and Kia models without a key.

An alleged victim on the West Coast filed a class action lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia, claiming the companies should have put engine immobilizers in the vehicles but didn’t, leaving them vulnerable to thieves.

Morris thinks someone should sue TikTok too. “I would like to see TikTok under a lawsuit. I would like for them to have to pay for the damages people had to go through for continuously showing that video,” she said.

TikTok’s rules clearly prohibit posting anything that promotes crime.

The platform emailed Stoogenke: “TikTok does not condone this behavior, which violates our policies and will be removed if found on our platform.”

In the meantime, Hyundai and Kia are taking steps to prevent these thefts by offering a software upgrade. In fact, after Stoogenke interviewed Morris, she received a letter saying drivers can now go to the dealer and get the update. The update is free, and you’ll get a window sticker, which may discourage thieves. You can also call Hyundai at 800-633-5151 or Kia at 800-333-4542.

You can also:

- Use a steering wheel lock. Hyundai and Kia are giving them to police departments that request the locks to give out.

- Park in well-lit places.

- Keep your vehicle locked.

You can also call Hyundai at 800-633-5151 or Kia at 800-333-4542 to receive a steering wheel lock.

(WATCH BELOW: Recall alert: Kia recalls 260K sedan vehicles because ceiling covers can come loose)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

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