PHILADELPHIA - Vehicle thefts in Philadelphia have nearly doubled from this point last year and criminals are targeting two specific car brands, according to the latest data from police.
The Philadelphia Police Department said there have been more than 9,000 vehicle thefts so far this year and half of those have involved Kias and Hyundais.
"Obviously this is a major concern for us, the stolen cars out there lead to a lot of things, some are just joyriding others are used in crimes," Chief Walter Smith said.
To prevent the growing trend, 21 districts from around Philadelphia came together Wednesday to hand out vehicle locks to Kia and Hyundai owners.
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Police also reached out to victims of vehicle thefts to let them know about the giveaway. The device - commonly called ‘The Club’ - goes onto the steering wheel and is locked with a key.
Authorities say the lock makes the car impossible for criminals to drive, and they hope it's visual presence is enough to prevent car thefts from happening.
"We found that people are multiple-time victims of this unfortunately," Captain Marques Newsome from the Philadelphia Police Department's 15th District said.
Data from the department obtained by FOX 29's Kelly Rule shows that there have been over 5,600 Kias and Hyundais stolen in Philadelphia this year, up from just 337 at this time in 2022.
In a month-by-month breakdown, May saw the highest number of cars stolen so far this year. Just a week into June, the data shows there is an average of 75 cars stolen a day.
Police believe a lingering TikTok challenge that shows viewers how to start Kia and Hyundai vehicles without a key is partly to blame for the rise in thefts.
"I noticed that as a trend it's been younger folks that have been involved in these crimes, so we're looking at other things near schools and rec centers where they like to hang out, we're seeing recoveries in those areas," Captain Newsome said.
Elizabeth Washington, whose Kia had its window smashed in an attempted theft earlier this year, spoke about the disruptions it cost her.
"Cost me a day of work, cost me to pay out of pocket because insurance, the deductible cost more than it did for the window to be fixed," Washington said.
Authorities say they hope to coordinate another vehicle lock giveaway in the near future.