By: Corinne Richardson
Imagine coming out to a parking lot, looking everywhere for your car only to find that it’s no longer there. Kia and Hyundai owners in Western New York don’t have to imagine this scenario, they’re living it and I am one of them.
I was walking to where I parked my car to find a man sweeping away some glass. I instantly knew what had happened. “Has nobody called you, he asked. Your car was stolen at 4:30 in the morning.”
I felt violated. There was a stranger out there driving my car with all my personal information in it. I’m only one of hundreds of victims in the Rochester area who have had their cars stolen.
According to the Rochester Police Department (RPD), as of March 28, 2023, there were almost 900 reports of stolen vehicles in Rochester so far this year. The total for all of last year was 1,135 reported stolen vehicles.
Police officials say they can’t chase stolen cars if they’re not involved in other crimes. Victims usually have to wait until their cars are found abandoned, which could take anywhere from days to months or never.
The city of Rochester’s impound lot is filled with stolen Kia’s and Hyundai’s.
Gates Police Department Sgt. Chris Grimm has seen an estimate of around 50 cases in the past few months.
“We’ve seen cars stolen overnight, out of people’s driveways, during the day and parking lots,” said Sgt. Grimm.
Many people have joined Facebook groups about stolen and found vehicles in Rochester and have shared their experience.
One victim, Becky Walsh, posted online about how it took 15 days to recover her car and she had to wait an additional month to get her vehicle from the impound evidence lot.
“Apparently the vehicles stolen in Monroe County jurisdiction that are recovered in the city are getting “lost in the shuffle”, exactly what I was told by a city employee,” she posted. “We’ve pretty much been screwed since then, relying on Uber and family/friends to get us around, because our car still needs to be fixed, and parts are all on back order,” Walsh posted.
This crime became a bigger problem during a TikTok trend called the “Kia Challenge.” They call themselves the “Kia Boys” and post videos on how to steal the cars with simply a USB cord and a screwdriver. Some New Yorkers have posted their experience with the “Kia Boys.”
“It spread a lot quicker with TikTok. I would say it’s possible this would’ve happened without the app, but it definitely helped create this problem that we’re seeing,” said Grimm
Near the end of 2022, a horrific accident happened when six teenagers participated in the Kia Challenge and four died due to the car flipping on the highway multiple times. The youngest just being 14 years old.
Models between 2011 and 2021 are most at risk. These models do not have a vehicle immobilizer installed. New York Senator Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to Kia and Hyundai. He requested that they prioritize the customers in Buffalo and Rochester. He also requested security kits and steering wheel locks to be available for free.
In February, the Rochester Police Department received 700 steering wheels locks to give out to residents who fit the credentials. They ran out the same day. Other towns in Western New York have followed this.
“I don’t think this problem is going to stop until Kia or Hyundai do a recall and fix this problem. It’s kind of on them to make it harder to steal these cars. It’s unfortunate it’s come to this,” said Grimm
The sad reality is that a TikTok challenge could be the very reason people are stealing these types of cars. Rochester Police recommend getting a steering wheel lock to keep your car safe.