TikTok Kia Challenge Video Fuels Car Thefts in Charlotte NC

Nearly 200 cars have been stolen in Charlotte in the past two weeks, nearly 30% more than police say they’re used to seeing this time of year.

Most of the stolen vehicles are 2008 and newer Kia and Hyundai models, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Detective William Wallace said. The “Kia Challenge” on TikTok is largely to blame for the surge, he said. The now-deleted TikTok video shows people how to start a car with a USB cable.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say 87 Kia and Hyundai vehicles were stolen between June 20 and July 24, 2022. AP file photo

Last week, 24 of 81 car theft cases were Kia or Hyundai models, according to records provided by the CMPD. In at least two cases, the vehicles were left running or left unattended with the keys in the ignition.

So far, all of the suspects and persons of interest in the robberies are minors, CMPD spokeswoman Amanda Aycock said.

The thieves get in by smashing the rear passenger windows and then opening the steering column to “plug in” the car with a USB cable where the ignition used to be, Aycock said.

This method of vehicle theft is more invasive and can damage the vehicle, Wallace said.

“Some of the things that we recommend for people is if you have a garage, lock your vehicle in the garage. In this way, it is not always accessible to the public,” Wallace said. “We want you to… cover your vehicle with anti-theft devices. So obviously some of the simple layers would be locking your vehicle, not leaving it running.”

Owners of Kias and Hyundais, model year 2008 and newer, can also use a steering wheel lock, such as The clubWallace said.

Most of the recent robberies have taken place in north Charlotte, the data shows.

“We want those people to know that they could be potential victims simply because their cars are susceptible to this trend,” Wallace said.

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Kallie Cox covers public safety for The Charlotte Observer. They grew up in Springfield, Illinois and attended school at SIU Carbondale. They reported on police accountability and LGBTQ immigration barriers for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. And they previously worked at The Southern Illinoisan before moving to Charlotte.

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