We live in a time where a group of joyriders called the “Kia boys” can gain the notoriety of Billy the Kid or Bonnie and Clyde — all because of TikTok.
Unlike Billy, Bonnie or Clyde, they don’t usually stay on the lam for long as detectives track them using DNA technology.
There have been 109 arrests as of March 26, according to New York police. The problem is there are exponentially more of their ilk out there because they use the social media platform to trumpet their grand theft auto crimes of Kia and Hyundai models, while also teaching others how to do it.
Over the past year, the number of certain Kia and Hyundai models between 2011 and 2021 are vulnerable to theft because the company that manufactures them did not safeguard the vehicles with engine immobilizers or anti-theft software. By using just a screwdriver and a USB charger, perps can “electronically hot wire” these cars by opening the ignition box and using the charger to bypass the connection to the starter.
In New York City alone, the challenge-related crime has led to 633 such vehicles being stolen and used for joyrides since the beginning of the year. This compares to 111 in the same period of 2022, according to the New York Police Department.
The Bronx has seen the greatest numbers of Kia and Hyundai stolen cars since the trend hit the city in September, according to police commissioner Keechant Sewell.
“We were averaging about 10 to 12 thefts of these cars a month,” she said during a recent news conference.“ And by December, we were up to about a hundred.”
“Stealing a car, going on a joyride, speeding through the streets, that is not a game,” Mayor Eric Adams said during a news conference last month. “That is a dangerous way for young people to carry out the activities that young people have done for so many years. But this a major concern for us.”
Adams started a campaign to inform people about the “TikTok Auto Theft Challenge” to see what parents, car dealers, young people and social media can do about the problem. The NYPD — including the 50th Precinct — spent some time over the past two weeks handing out flyers to drivers warning of the dangerous trend and what to do to safeguard their vehicles.
The mayor is so incensed about the situation he announced the city plans to join a Washington-based federal lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai. Filed in January, the lawsuit asserts claims of public nuisance and negligence against the car manufacturers for not equipping their vehicles with industry-standard anti-theft immobilization devices.
Additionally, 11 states and the District of Columbia have called for a national recall of the Kia and Hyundai models vulnerable to the TikTok challenge. And there is the regulation of such platforms as TikTok, which Congress is thinking about banning from the United States. Other than that, there is no good plan in place to regulate them.
While these actions are all well and good, we believe owners of the stolen vehicles should be treated more like the victims they are. That includes a program that would treat the sale of these vehicles covered under the lemon law. That would allow them to go after the car dealers that sold them the vehicles in the first place.
This way those owners could be held liable for selling these cars — new or used — and make the car owners whole on their investment. Otherwise, these poor owners have to deal with the insurance companies to replace the vehicle. And from what we have heard, that process can take a long time.