Car thieves continue to target Kia and Hyundai vehicles across Chicagoland, including right here in Park Forest. Just recently, Park Forest police investigated two thefts involving those car makers.
With car thefts on the rise throughout the country, Park Forest Police Chief Paul Winfrey is warning residents to keep their vehicles safe. He said Kia and Hyundai cars are attractive to thieves because certain models were not built with an engine immobilizer.
"Prior to 2020, criminals determined a method of stealing 2011 and newer Kia models," said Chief Winfrey. "[They also stole] 2015 and newer Hyundai models, which had been built without an engine immobilizer as standard equipment."
Chief Winfrey added, that the immobilizer was not an NHTSA-required component. He said two years ago, a video showed how easy it is to steal those cars. The thefts made it to social media and went viral, ultimately leading to the “Kia Challenge," on TikTok.
"Essentially, Kia models from 2011-2021 and Hyundai models from 2015-2021 that are not push-to-start, can be more easily started without a key than other makes and models of vehicles," said Chief Winfrey.
Thieves can steal certain models in less than a minute in some instances. Videos on social media show the thieves breaking a window and removing part of the steering column's cover, exposing the ignition. Then, they break the ignition cylinder off and start the vehicle with a flathead screwdriver or USB plug-in.
Chief Winfrey said owners of those car models that are at a higher risk of being stolen need to take precautions to protect their property.
"Residents who own those makes and models of vehicles should be particularly vigilant about using any anti-theft measures available," said Chief Winfrey. "One option is the installation of an alarm system that includes an engine immobilizer."
Chief Winfrey said both car manufacturers, Kia and Hyundai, are partnering with law enforcement around the nation, including Park Forest, by providing wheel locks to vulnerable car owners.
"Park Forest residents who own affected vehicles can bring their registration, license plate number, or their vehicle to the police department and receive a lock," said Chief Winfrey.
Winfrey added, that both Hyundai and Kia have developed a system to counter the theft that will be available at local dealers in October. He said owners should contact their local dealer for more information on that system.
Kia locks will be available at the Park Forest Police Department in coming weeks. Hyundai car owners can get their wheel locks today, while supplies last from the Park Forest Police Department, Located at 200 Lakewood Boulevard.