A social media challenge has led to an increase in thefts of some Kia and Hyundai vehicles in Cook County, with authorities saying such crimes have increased by 767%.
Hundreds of people in Cook County had their Hyundai or Kia vehicles stolen this summer, including a suburban man whose car was stolen right outside his home.
“They were able to damage pretty much the entire front of the vehicle,” Raymond Taylor said. “You see the damage to the tires, rear wheels, bumper and radiator, everything. I mean, that kind of damage will probably cost you between $5,000 at a body shop to fix it.
Surveillance video captured the thieves in action outside his Calumet City home. Taylor said they smashed his passenger-side rear window and plugged his car in under two minutes.
“That’s how the vehicle was found when it was stolen when it was basically in the alley,” he said. “He was found with this USB drive inside just like that.”
Taylor told NBC 5 that police said her stolen vehicle was involved in a chase 15 minutes after it was stolen from outside her home.
“It’s very hurtful, and I mean especially with the financial cost it will take to put this stuff right, it’s kind of detrimental to you,” he said.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office said since July 1, 642 Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts have been reported. Around this time last year, the office received 74 reports.
“The TikTok challenge is just teaching people how to do it, which is pretty crazy,” said Roe Conn, spokesperson for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office said the thieves were targeting vehicles that required a physical key to start, such as Taylor’s 2016 Kia Optima.
“This is a really important situation for Kia and Hyundai owners right now, and the manufacturers need to do something here that they need to address this issue,” Conn said.
The Sheriff’s Office encourages owners to protect their vehicles by installing anti-theft devices including kill switches and steering wheel locks, car alarms with motion detection and vehicle tracking systems to try to deter criminals .
“It’s not worth it anymore because it’s not safe, and I don’t think I should be driving or my wife should be driving, it’s not safe,” Taylor said.
The sheriff’s office said car owners can also complete an online consent form so police can access your vehicle’s data location information in the event of a reported theft. You can also put a sticker on your car to let criminals know that your vehicle is being tracked by the sheriff’s office.