Last June, videos demonstrating how to start some Kias and Hyundais using a USB charger went viral on TikTok, leading to a rash of thefts in some cities. TikTok has since removed the videos, but car owners are still dealing with their impact: from December 2021 to December 2022, reported thefts rose 50 percent in Atlanta and El Paso, Texas. They tripled in Dayton, Ohio.
USAFacts compiled data from hundreds of police departments to understand this trend. Here's what we found.
One of the most-cited car theft videos was filmed in Milwaukee. Starting in November 2020, the city became one of the first to grapple with a wave of stolen Kias and Hyundais. Thefts have remained comparatively elevated since.
In 2021, Milwaukee police reported one car stolen for every 50 people, the highest rate among big cities that submitted data to the FBI. By April 2021, 71% of the vehicles reported stolen in the city were Kias or Hyundais, up from 6% in 2019.
Denver had a slightly different problem. Thefts of Kias, Hyundais and other vehicles doubled from spring to fall 2020. In 2021, the city reported one stolen vehicle for every 60 residents, about six times the national average.
Thefts rose sharply in summer 2022. Chicago might be the best example of this. In the first half of 2022, 551 Kias or Hyundais were reported stolen in Chicago. In the second, 6,250 were reported stolen.
It's unclear what makes the trend catch on. Denver is more than 1,000 miles from Milwaukee and was the second city to experience this rise. Chicago, just 90 miles from Milwaukee, didn't have a rash of Kia and Hyundai thefts until mid-2022. Cities as disparate as Portland, Oregon, and Dayton, Ohio, are dealing with more thefts, while thefts in Wichita, Kansas; San Francisco, and other cities have mostly stayed the same.
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