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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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TikTok trend leads to uptick in car thefts

A Kia Sorento parked on City Avenue is similar to models that lack an immobilizer, which can help prevent theft. PHOTO: KELLY SHANNON ’24/THE HAWK

Do you know where your Kia is? The “Kia Boys” and their copycat followers may.

The “Kia Boys” started out on YouTube in 2021, sharing video content of themselves stealing and driving off in Kias. Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the original “Kia Boys” stole the cars with a USB cord. 

While they currently have 5,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel, TikTok is where the Kia Boys really took off, along with a lot of cars. After the #kiaboys hashtag began gaining traction on TikTok this summer, Hyunadais soon became a target for other car thieves as well. 

According to Officer Joshua Torres of the Philadelphia Police Department, there has been a substantial increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts in the area. In 2021, between June 1 and Nov. 2, there were 281 thefts of Kias and Hyundais in Philadelphia. In 2022, that number increased to 746 Kia and Hyundai thefts in the same time period, according to Philadelphia Police Officer Eric McLaurin. This amounts to a 265% increase.

Kia and Hyundai models between the years 2015 and 2021 lack an immobilizer, an electronic security element that keeps a car from being hot-wired and stolen. Without an immobilizer, once thieves break into a car, the steering lock is able to be pulled back and the car can be started in the lock spot with a universal key, screwdriver or a USB cord. 

Studies conducted over the last 25 years by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found that vehicle theft losses decreased significantly after factory-installed immobilizers were introduced by car manufacturers. A 2021 HLDI study found that “Hyundai and Kia have lagged behind other manufacturers in equipping their vehicles with standard passive immobilizers … making  many Hyundai and Kia vehicles vulnerable to theft.” The study reports that only 26% of 2015 Hyundai and Kia vehicle series were equipped with standard immobilizers, compared to 96% of all other vehicle makes combined.

For one senior at St. Joe’s, these statistics became a reality when their Hyundai was stolen on Woodbine Avenue, just a couple of blocks away from campus. They asked not to be named while the investigation is ongoing.

“I was going to work and went outside, and my car was not there,” the student said. “I waited a week, and [authorities] found it exactly a week later on Halloween, and it was abandoned in North Philadelphia.” 

While their car was recovered, the student still has not gotten it back. The engine is still there, but the steering lock is missing and the windows are smashed. 

“There are a lot of unanswered questions, and that’s honestly been the most frustrating part,” the student said. 

Public Safety Investigator Martin Havira said there has not been an increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts on campus, but his office still advises students to follow preventative measures to mitigate the issue.

“We tell students, ‘Don’t leave valuables [in the car], lock your car doors, and don’t have anything in there that has value that you need,’” Havira said. 

The biggest deterrent for Kia and Hyundai thieves, Havira said, is after-market steering wheel locks. 

Wheel locks, which can be purchased on websites like AutoZone, Amazon and Advanced Auto Parts, range in price between $30 and $40. 

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