Where Kia and Hyundai cars are stolen in Columbus, Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio, (WCMH) – The last weekend in July saw dozens of cars stolen in Columbus, making it the latest trend to target two specific vehicle brands.

Columbus Police Department data obtained Tuesday by NBC4 showed where more than 30 attempted and successful thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles took place from July 29 to July 31. Most were concentrated in areas around the Short North, but some outliers included thefts near Steelton and south and west Columbus.

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The weekend spate of car thefts was the latest in an annual spike. Columbus police reported 1,002 Hyundai vehicles stolen in 2022, compared to 187 in 2021. Kia drivers saw 944 of their cars stolen, compared to 169 in 2021. Not only are thefts on the rise, but the number of attempted thefts.

Hilliard police noticed a similar trend over the summer. Although on a smaller scale, investigators there painted a similar story.

“Since May, we have investigated 15 stolen vehicles, nine of which were Kias or Hyundais,” said a spokesman for the Hilliard Police Department.

Columbus police said the suspects are almost always teenagers — calling themselves the “Kia Boys” — who steal the cars and then post about it on social media. Car thieves targeted both brands because of vulnerabilities in some of their models, according to investigators. Kia and Hyundai thefts have also resulted in crashes that have sometimes been fatal. In a local incident on July 24, three juvenile teenagers crashed into a city light pole in a stolen Hyundai Elantra, ejecting two of them.

Rachel Ross told NBC4 that watching her nephew last week quickly turned into a search for her stolen car.

“My brother-in-law came home and asked where my car was,” Ross said. “In typical bro style, I was like, ‘Stop messing around.’ Stop playing with me.’ And he said, ‘No, I’m serious, where’s your car.’

After working with her neighbors and police, Ross said the group found a video on social media showing cars stolen from her neighborhood driving through the village of Merion. The children in the video were so small that one’s head was barely above the steering wheel.

The thefts targeting both brands of cars is a trend seen outside Ohio as well. An Indiana woman who lost her Kia to car thieves has blamed YouTube and Tiktok users who posted about the car’s security breach online. It’s word of mouth that both Kia and Hyundai have shared their concerns about the rise in theft across the country, and what the companies will do to address it.

“All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer implemented either at the start of the year or as an ongoing change,” Kia America said in a statement.

Ira Gabriel of Hyundai Motor America shared a similar plan to deal with theft in its newer models. However, for older models with a weakness, their owners may have to take matters into their own hands. Rick Ricart of Ricart Automotive suggested drivers consider installing their own immobilizer in older cars. These can include electronic technologies such as push-to-start key fobs that wirelessly transmit a password to the car that allows the engine to start, rather than using a traditional key to turn the ignition.