ARLINGTON, Texas — Stealing cars is nothing new, but a specific type of car theft is on the rise.
Social media and TikTok videos recently began spreading. They show mostly teenagers stealing Kia and Hyundai vehicles, taking them for joyrides and often crashing or abandoning them.
Autumn Tunnell, a North Richland Hills resident, fell victim when her Kia was stolen from her driveway.
“It was gut-wrenching,” Tunnell said. “It’s really terrible. I worked really hard for my car, I’m proud of it. Our kids even have a nickname for her [the car], she’s a part of my life. So, it’s really violating.”
Thankfully, police recovered her family’s ride. When they found it, it was filled with stolen items, Tunnell said.
Arlington police spokesperson Jesse Minton said the department has seen an increase in thefts targeting older model Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
“You’ve heard of all these challenges, things that are very dangerous,” Minton said.
In the month of July alone, the department received reports of 12 stolen Kia vehicles. Minton said most of the thefts happened during the last week of July.
Police have made several arrests and charged underaged individuals who were connected to at least three thefts.
“When a certain model car is hardly ever stolen and now all of a sudden we see five or 10 in a month, that’s gonna hit our auto theft crew’s radar,” Minton said.
Minton said Hyundai and Kia vehicles are getting targeted because people have found a way to easily break into the ignition.
Online videos show the thefts can happen with the use of a USB drive in a matter of 30 seconds.
While Kia and Hyundai thefts in Arlington are on the rise, Minton’s data shows that the two car companies are not on the top 10 list of most commonly stolen vehicles.
- Consider getting an anti-theft device, like a steering wheel lock or a kill switch.
- Get an alarm system.
- Try to park your car closer to your home.
- Avoid leaving your keys in the car, don’t leave your car or a/c running when unattended.
Minton said Arlington PD is focused on preventing the recent string of thefts in an effort to prevent more people from becoming victims.
“When you take somebody’s car, that may be how they get to work or how they get their kids to daycare. That’s why we take it so seriously,” Minton said.
Car theft is a felony in Texas that could come with a couple of years in prison, Minton said.