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South suburban couple is fit to be tied after Kia is stolen, ripped apart

South suburban couple frustrated after thieves trash Kia
South suburban couple frustrated after thieves trash Kia 02:52

SAUK VILLAGE, Ill. (CBS) -- You likely already know you could be a target for thieves if you own a Kia or Hyundai.

Within five days earlier this month, more than 20 such cars were stolen on the West and Northwest sides. CBS 2's Tara Molina spoke with another victim from the south suburbs – who said the thieves tried to steal her Kia twice, failed, and ended up coming back.

Charles Luckette and Belinda Starkley's Kia sedan now has a broken back window with a black plastic bag over it. Getting it on the road required fresh air in the flattened tires – and they can't even use their car keys to start their own car. They have to use a screwdriver.

"They took the whole ignition thing out," Starkley said.

There is no engine immobilizer in certain models. That is why the car the pair shares was damaged, ripped apart, and left filthy dirty when they found it.

"It looks like they had a party in here," Starkley said.

The car was ditched on the side of the road - days after it was stolen from the lot feet from their home in south suburban Sauk Village.

"I walked outside and found my car - right before you get to the police station - by a ditch," Starkley said.

Starkley and Luckette filed police reports. But they only have liability insurance – like about 20 percent of drivers on the road, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Thus, fixes to the ignition mechanism – and fixes to the car, which was trashed by those who stole it – are entirely Starkley and Luckette's responsibility.

"We don't have no money!" Starkley said. "It's either get our car fixed or face eviction."

This was a car Starkley and Luckette paid off. They think Kia should be bearing some of the burden.

"I'm hoping that Kia takes some responsibility," Starkley said.

But that is not happening, and thus, Starkley and Luckette are forced to take unique measures to get around - and to feel safe leaving their car in the lot when they go to sleep.

They have to take a fuse out of the car after they park it now.

"I'm trying to save my car," Luckett said. "because I don't have any money to buy a brand-new car."

They're not alone. We've tracked thousands of these thefts at CBS 2.

Chicago Police issuing a warning Friday with 22 thefts reported in five days earlier this month, with the same crew believed to be behind them. In those incidents, the thieves got into the Kias and Hyundais through an unlocked door or broke a window. They then forced open the steering column to start the car and drove off.

These thefts happened at the following times and locations.

  • 4600 block of West North Avenue, West Humboldt Park, on Sunday, Jan. 1, at 1:30 p.m.
  • 1600 block of North Cicero Avenue, North Austin, on Sunday, Jan. 1, at 3 a.m.
  • 2300 block of North Keeler Avenue, Hermosa, on Sunday, Jan. 1, at 5:30 p.m.
  • 1600 block of North Natchez Avenue, Galewood, on Monday, Jan. 2, at 3 p.m.
  • 4400 block of West Cortland Street, Hermosa, on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at midnight.
  • 1600 block of North Lamon Avenue, North Austin, on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 5 p.m.
  • 3000 block of North Harlem Avenue, Montclare, on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 10 p.m.
  • 3000 block of North Nottingham Avenue, Montclare, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at midnight.
  • 2100 block of North Nashville Avenue, Montclare, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 2:30 a.m.
  • 2900 block of North Natchez Avenue on Wednesday, January 4, at 4 a.m.
  • 1400 block of North Cicero Avenue, North Austin, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 3 p.m.
  • 4400 block of West Deming Place, Hermosa, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 4 p.m.
  • 1300 block of North Lawndale Avenue, Humboldt Park, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 6 p.m.
  • 2900 block of North Mason Avenue, Belmont Central, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 6 p.m.
  • 2200 block of North Central Avenue, Belmont Central, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 6:30 p.m.
  • 6700 block of West Wrightwood Avenue, Montclare, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at 10 p.m.
  • 6100 block of West Diversey Avenue, Belmont Central, on Wednesday, Jan. 5, at 2 a.m.
  • 4800 block of West St. Paul Avenue, North Austin, on Thursday, Jan. 5, at 8 a.m.
  • 1900 block of North Tripp Avenue, Hermosa, on Thursday, Jan. 5, at 5 p.m.
  • 4800 block of West Potomac Avenue, North Austin, on Thursday, Jan. 5, at 6 p.m.
  • 1700 block of North Laramie Avenue, North Austin, on Thursday, Jan. 5, at 8 p.m.
  • 1200 block of North Massasoit Avenue, North Austin, on Thursday, Jan. 5, at 11 p.m.

There are multiple thieves wearing dark clothes and masks in these incidents.

Kias and Hyundais have accounted for nearly 40 percent of motor vehicle thefts lately. The peak for these thefts occurred in October – with 3,176 car thefts, the most of any month in a 21-year Chicago history.

The first two weeks of January had 1,087 motor vehicle thefts.

Back in Sauk Village, Luckette and Starkley took strong issue with Kia.

"Hey Kia!" Luckette said. "You need to stop – you need to take care of these people that's going through this problem with their cars."

Kia didn't have any new answers for us today- sending us a statement they've sent us in the past:

"Kia remains concerned about the recent trend among youth in some areas, encouraged by social media, to target certain Kia cars with a steel key and "turn-to-start" ignition systems. In many cases, the vehicles are stolen solely for the purpose of operating in a reckless manner. Such criminal conduct endangers our local communities and violates property rights.

"While no car can be made completely theft-proof, Kia continues to make steering wheel locks available to customers through interested local law enforcement agencies, subject to available supply, at no cost to concerned owners of these vehicles.

"Kia also continues its efforts to develop additional solutions for vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer, including the development and testing of enhanced security software, and will have an update to share in the near future.

"All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change, and all Kia vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

"Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact the Kia Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (Kia)."

A spokesperson said Kia will have more to share when they start rolling out a new software for some car owners. That is not something that would help Charles and Belinda right now.

Hyundai spokesman Ira Gabriel sent this statement:

"In response to increasing thefts targeting our vehicles without push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices in the United States, Hyundai Motor America has made engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021.  Additionally, Hyundai has taken a series of actions to deter thefts of affected vehicles, including an upcoming software update scheduled to be available beginning in March and provided at no cost to customers.  

"In the interim, Hyundai is also providing free steering wheel locks, as available, to select law enforcement agencies across the country for distribution to local residents who own or lease affected models.  We apologize for the inconvenience to affected customers.  Owners may also bring their vehicles to a local Hyundai dealer for the purchase and installation of a customized security kit.

"Hyundai is committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of all our products through continuous improvement.  Hyundai quality is among the best in the industry, ranking third among all brands in the 2022 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) and historically above the industry average in J.D. Power's U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS)."

The Insurance Information Institute emphasized that comprehensive coverage is needed to cover vandalism and theft of vehicles. About 80 percent of drivers have such coverage, which is typically required if you have an auto loan or lease, the institute said.

The institute provided this link on how the insurance industry is responding to the theft trend, and also noted that there have been multiple class-action lawsuits against Kia filed by owners who are unhappy with its faulty ignition system.

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