FRANKLIN, Va. (WAVY) — A nationwide problem plaguing car owners in parts of Hampton Roads is making its way to smaller cities.
Seven Hyundai or Kia cars have been stolen in Franklin recently. There have also been eight attempted thefts of the same kinds of cars.
“It’s definitely affected the quality of life for those victims who’ve had their motor transportation taken from them,” said Cpl. Peter Trimble with the Franklin Police.
“In some of these cases, when we have recovered the vehicle safe and damaged or in some cases inoperable, that’s certainly has a big effect on the victims,” he said.
A security flaw in certain models of Kias and Hyundais make them an easy target, leading many people to successfully swipe the cars — and then post their success on social media. Police attribute the rash of thefts to people watching videos of stolen cars on TikTok.
“This is something that we’re seeing nationally,” Trimble said. “It began in 2020 to evolve in response to a series of viral videos, essentially instructing people on how to exploit a flaw in certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles that makes them a little bit easier to steal.”
Police in Franklin have made an arrest in connection to the recent thefts, and are working to determine if there are any more people involved.
In Norfolk, a man was convicted last week after police said a Flock camera alerted them to a stolen Hyundai at a convenience store.
“Norfolk Police received an automated notice from Norfolk’s FLOCK camera system that a 2013 Hyundai Accent — that had been reported stolen three days before — was near East Little Creek Road in Norfolk,” according to a news release. “Officers found the vehicle parked at the Airport Quik Mart, and Mr. Starrette was inside the store. When officers asked if the car belonged to him, Mr. Starrette said, ‘yes,’ and the officers detained him.”
“The ‘Kia Challenge’ to steal these cars, with simple Internet instructions, is real,” said Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi. “If you drive a 2011-2022 Hyundai or Kia, please contact a local dealer to have this flaw repaired, and please use steering-wheel immobilizers until then. In the meantime, we will continue to prosecute people who steal cars and thereby disrupt the lives and livelihoods of law-abiding citizens.”