Owners of Hyundai and Kia vehicles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are dealing with a frustrating situation. About 70 percent of the cars stolen in the city are Hyundais and Kias and there’s no sign of it stopping.
Thefts of these vehicles in Milwaukee are on a meteoric rise this year. It’s an issue that we reported on back in May and it has only gotten worse since then. Police data shows that an average of about 20 Kia/Hyundai vehicles are stolen in Milwaukee every day, reports WTMJ-TV Milwaukee.
Police have tried to curb the spree by handing out free steering wheel locks, but that hasn’t stopped thieves from making off with 5,362 Kia and Hyundai vehicles as of September 30.
The Milwaukee Police Department says that 2,697 Kias and 2,665 Hyundais have been stolen out of a total of about 7,000 stolen vehicles in the city. General Motors vehicles come in third place with a mere 566 vehicles. In 2020, only 188 Kia/Hyundai vehicles were stolen.
A WTMJ-TV video describes the story of a 2018 Kia Sportage owner that returned from a walk to see two men sitting in his car, doors open, trying to start it.
They ignored his demands to get out and ended up getting away with the car, dumping it in front of a house some six minutes away.
WISN 12 news detailed more stories of car theft victims, including the flow of calls from 911 dispatchers and even a Kia/Hyundai owner that had their car stolen a second time. Getting your car stolen twice is bad enough, but this person didn’t even have it back for a day before it was stolen the second time.
The stolen cars are used for everything from joyrides to be used for other crimes, including stealing other cars. Police are arresting people as young as 12 for the thefts. And when the owners get their cars back, they’re sometimes left paying in excess of $10,000 dollars to fix them.
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, authorities have found out that the stolen cars don’t have much in the way of theft prevention. The cars being stolen don’t have immobilizers and the cars’ alarms are being bypassed by thieves getting in by breaking windows. Thieves are using the old-school method of jamming a screwdriver into the steering column. Apparently, a part in the steering column can be manipulated to start the cars using a USB cable like the tip of a screwdriver, too.
Kia informed WTMJ-TV that starting in 2022, its new vehicles will come with immobilizers standard. Of course, that doesn’t really help current owners and a class-action lawsuit has been filed against both automakers alleging that their vehicles are designed with subpar security measures.
Both automakers say they are working closely with law enforcement to reduce the thefts.