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‘The only car they took was mine:’ Growing number of stolen Kias and Hyundais in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A local woman said she’s the latest victim of A TikTok trend targeting certain cars. JSO says the numbers are growing for stolen Kias and Hyundais.

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And experts say the value of these vehicles have also decreased because of this crime trend.

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“Truthfully I don’t feel safe,” car theft victim Minta Mendez said in Spanish.

Mendez lives at the Heron Walk Apartments in north Jacksonville. About two weeks ago, she came home to find her car missing. She called the police and they found it at another apartment about 10 miles away. But she wasn’t the only one affected.

In Spanish she said, “They broke everyone’s glass, and the only car they took was mine.”

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says 643 Kia and Hyundai cars have been stolen so far this year. Police say there were a little more than a thousand stolen in Duval last year.

RELATED: JSO warns of thefts involving Kia and Hyundai vehicles

From the eight JSO incident reports at Heron Walk Apartments – all the car burglaries happened on either Kia’s or Hyundai’s.

Mendez said she found video that showed a group of kids had taken her car.

This crime began in 2022 as part of a viral TikTok trend by the “Kia Boyz.” They showed how easy it was to steal these vehicles using a USB cable to start the car.

“Those vehicles only had a standard steel key, and there was no anti-theft system that would verify otherwise that it was the right key,” local car inspector, Andy Boyles said.

RELATED: ‘We didn’t know what was headed our way:’ Stolen Kia crashes near gas station

Boyles has been inspecting cars for nearly two decades. He says vehicles that thieves like to target, can decrease their value.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the Hyundai Elantra, Sonata and the Kia Optima are among the top three most stolen vehicles in the country, last year.

“Especially when buying from a dealership, that Carfax report is going to have that incident on there and it will devalue the vehicle,” Boyles said.

Boyles said Kelly Blue Book reveals the values of the cars are significantly different compared to others.

“If you look at comparable cars to say, a Kia Optima, you can look at a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry, they’re comparably equipped, same year, same mileage, and it’s a $3-5,000 difference in the cost of the vehicle when you’re buying it at a dealership at retail rate,” Boyles said.

RELATED: ‘It’s completely violating;’ Local Kia, Hyundai owners targeted for car break-ins, thefts

Mendez bought a 2012 Hyundai Sonata in February with about 86,000 miles for about $6000.

“Now I know why they are so cheap,” Mendez said in Spanish.

Since the theft, Mendez said she is staying on high alert.

“Every night when I come home from work, I have to lock it from the steering wheel,” Mendez said in Spanish.

Action News Jax Annette Gutierrez reached out to both Kia and Hyundai, and both said they are actively working to resolve the issues.

The companies issued a recall for certain cars from the model year 2011 to either 2021 or 2022. All affected customers can upgrade their cars to include an anti-theft software for free.

FULL KIA STATEMENT:

Kia continues to take comprehensive action to enhance the security of our vehicles in an effort to better protect our customers and prevent criminals from using methods of theft popularized on social media to break the law and steal or attempt to steal certain vehicle models. As a result of our actions, which include providing free software security upgrades, distributing steering wheel locks to customers at no cost, and offering complimentary hardware modifications to the vehicle’s ignition cylinder body, we have seen reports of decreases in vehicle thefts in several cities, including Chicago, Buffalo , St. Louis, and others. We remain focused on working with law enforcement agencies across the country and moving forward to continue to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it.

In response to questions about the specific steps we have taken, we’re continuing to strongly encourage eligible customers to receive the software upgrade, which we developed and rolled out last year, and which is designed to restrict the operation of the vehicle’s ignition system should a potential criminal attempt to steal a locked vehicle without the key. To date, almost 1.2 million Kia vehicles nationwide have received the upgrade and we continue to spread awareness about its availability by establishing a dedicated website with detailed information, hosting over 35 off-site events in cities across the country to make it easier for eligible customers to receive the upgrade, and partnering with Carfax to inform owners that their vehicle is eligible for the upgrade.

We also continue to provide steering wheel locks to owners of impacted vehicles that are not eligible for the software upgrade at no cost to them. These free steering wheel locks further enhance a vehicle’s security and can serve as a theft-deterrent to potential car thieves. Kia customers can obtain free, Kia-provided locks through their local law enforcement or they can request a steering wheel lock from Kia directly through the dedicated website. To date, we have distributed more than 370,000 locks and we will continue to provide them as they are needed. We also recently developed and introduced a new hardware modification, which is designed for the vehicles that are not eligible for the software upgrade, and which works to combat theft by reinforcing the ignition cylinder body and preventing its removal through the method of theft promoted in videos that have spread across social media encouraging criminal activity.

As we stated earlier, Kia will continue to work with law enforcement agencies across the country to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it, and we remain fully committed to supporting our customers and to vehicle security.”

FUL HYUNDAI STATEMENT:

Hyundai is committed to the comprehensive actions we are undertaking to assist customers and communities affected by the persistent thefts of certain Model Year 2011-2022 vehicles not equipped with push-button ignitions and engine immobilizers. There is no quality issue or defect with these vehicles, and they all meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Hyundai has responded with wide-ranging initiatives to enhance the security of vehicles without engine immobilizers still on the road. Chief among these measures is the development and validation of a no-cost software upgrade for the owners of these vehicles to prevent the theft mode popularized on social media. For eligible vehicles that cannot accommodate the software upgrade, we are now installing ignition cylinder protectors at no cost to our customers. All Hyundai vehicles produced since November 2021 are equipped with an engine immobilizer as standard equipment. Hyundai continues to provide free steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies for distribution to local residents who own or lease affected models.

Our dealers across the country are maximizing the number of anti-theft software and ignition cylinder protector installations that can be performed daily, contributing to steadily increasing completion rates. Hyundai has also launched multi-day mobile pop-up software installation clinics in Washington, D.C., St. Louis, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, El Paso, Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Charlotte, Austin, Seattle, Tacoma and Baltimore, with plans to replicate in additional markets to further scale and speed installation of these anti-theft protections. As of June 12, Hyundai has provided no-cost anti-theft solutions to more than 1.3 million affected vehicles. We have also created a dedicated website (www.hyundaiantitheft.com) to support customers with information and resources.

We have also collaborated with AAA insurers on a program to offer insurance options for affected owners and lessees. As part of this collaboration, AAA insurers will issue new and renewal policies for eligible affected Hyundai customers. The program will be available in all states with the exception of those states where AAA does not offer insurance. (e.g., Alaska, Massachusetts, Washington).

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