While most adult TikTok challenges damage only the sloth-witted and hopeless who perform them—and they were bound for a Darwinian conclusion anyway—the latest trend on the social media monster targets innocent third parties who did nothing more egregious than purchasing a Kia.
The “Kia Boyz” TikTok challenge—which encourages viewers to steal Kias and Hyundais via a manufacturing glitch in certain models—has led to an astonishing 85 percent increase in car thefts in the City of Los Angeles compared to last year, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said at a police commissioners meeting Tuesday.
Moore said that over 1,600 of the rides have been swiped this year thanks to a tech snafu that makes them particularly vulnerable to hot-wiring, and which the TikTok entertainers happily share.
As Axios explains, “Thieves bust a window and remove part of the steering column’s cover, exposing the ignition. Then they break the ignition cylinder off, and start the vehicle with a flathead screwdriver or USB plug-in.” The affected vehicles are 2011-2021 Kias and 2016-2021 Hyundais that use a steel key, not a fob and push-button start.
The Kia-Hyundai Purge is also nationwide, with Detroit tallying 111 Kias stolen in July and 22 in the first nine days of August—up from 23 in June and 11 or fewer in all previous months of 2022—while Charlotte, N.C., cops count 156 Kia and Hyundai thefts since June 20—a 346 percent moonshot from 35 incidents during the same time last year. Cops in Chicago said last week that the number of thefts there were up 767 percent in July compared to 2021.
“For the community, the challenge of owning one of these vehicles, we’re asking that you purchase a steering wheel lock,” Moore advised at Tuesday’s meeting, ABC7 reports. “You can also install an alarm system. The steering wheel lock will offer both a visual and physical deterrent from someone trying to break your glass and into your vehicle.”
However, social media only helped spread the cheat, which cops say was long-known to the people whose business it is to know such things.
“The TikTok thing kind of pushed it to the next level,” LAPD Sgt. Juvey Mejia, who works with a countywide taskforce on vehicle thefts, told the Mercury News. “Even prior to TikTok, the scam—the method was already out there.”
Mejia said Kia and Hyundai thefts were already taking up a healthy share of stolen vehicles in 2019 and 2020. In those years, Kia, Hyundai, GM and Honda vehicles accounted for 42 percent of all vehicles stolen in L.A.
He added that police suspected early on that these were not the work of people who steal cars for a living.
“With a lot of these Kias and Hyundais, that’s the one thing that stood out to us,” Mejia said. “They’re not being stripped. Usually, thieves are stealing components from the vehicles and selling them to chop shops. These seem to be more for joy riding, where they later drop it in the same neighborhood and stealing a different car. I think it’s the younger crowd that’s doing that.”
Although TikTok is where the fun really seems to have caught fire, many credit this May 31 Youtube video, with 3.7 million views, as being the primary source of ignition.
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