Watch CBS News

Baltimore City leaders, officials host anti-theft giveaway event aimed at reducing car theft trend

Baltimore City leaders, officials host anti-theft giveaway event aimed at reducing car theft trend
Baltimore City leaders, officials host anti-theft giveaway event aimed at reducing car theft trend 02:37

BALTIMORE -- City leaders handed out anti-theft devices to Baltimore residents on Saturday as part of their updated auto-theft strategy.

A long line of vehicles snaked around the wheel-lock giveaway at the Westside Skills Center in Southwest Baltimore.

"We have to get everyone trying to do everything they can to stop their vehicles from being stolen," Baltimore Police Chief Richard Worley said.

The southwest center sits in the district of Baltimore City Councilman Kristerfer Burnett who expressed his concern about the rising number of vehicle thefts while at the giveaway event.

"My district, like so many, has dealt with the impact of car thefts on our constituents and these are the real simple solutions that can make a real impact," he said.

City officials distributed thousands of wheel locks across the city in 2023. That year, there was a 229% increase in stolen auto incidents in comparison to 2022, according to city data.

"We need to demonstrate that there is a sense of urgency around this issue," Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello said in a letter to the mayor's office late last year. "When a certain crime is up 229 percent year-over-year to date, significant action needs to be taken." 

Costello's letter called for more to be done to try to stop the vehicle thefts.

Car thefts skyrocketed nationwide when a social media trend exposed how certain Hyundai and Kia models lacked industry-standard vehicle immobilization technology, making them easy to steal.

Baltimore Police data shows that Hyundais and Kias made up nearly 70% of stolen vehicles in 2023.

Those thefts have continued in 2024. Last weekend, someone broke into several vehicles parked behind Mt. Sinai Baptist Church on East Preston Street and stole one of them as churchgoers attended a Sunday service.

"They're stealing cars left and right everywhere, and nobody is being held accountable," Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Ray Cotton said. "So, if there is no real deterrent to it. There is nothing to prevent them from doing so."    

City officials are trying to curtail that trend. In addition to wheel lock giveaways, they have been holding anti-theft system upgrade clinics for Kia and Hyundai owners.

At the giveaway on Saturday, Worley said the strategies undertaken by the city have proven to be effective against potential thieves.

"We had one the other day where they broke into a vehicle and they tried to steal it, but it had the security upgrade," he said. "So, the security upgrade stopped it, but unfortunately, they went to another vehicle that didn't have the security upgrade or the device." 

Worley and Scott said they have been working with Baltimore City's State's Attorney Ivan Bates to make sure that repeat offenders are prosecuted.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.