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Mayor Eric Adams: NYPD to give out 500 Apple AirTags in new approach to fighting car thefts

NYPD turning to AirTags to combat rash of vehicle thefts
NYPD turning to AirTags to combat rash of vehicle thefts 02:30

NEW YORK -- The NYPD is turning to a new piece of technology to help crack down on car thefts in the Bronx.

Police are giving out free Apple AirTags to people living in Castle Hill, Soundview, and Parkchester.

The NYPD says those neighborhoods have seen a 548% increase in stolen Hyundai and Kia makes.

Karim Ali of Parkchester started using an AirTag a few months ago to keep tabs on his SUV.

"I just thought about like if something happens to my car that gets stolen," Ali said. "Definitely, there's a lot of crimes here going on about cars, people getting their tires stolen."

Mayor Eric Adams said Sunday the deployment of AirTags -- 500 of them being given away to vehicle owners in the 43rd Precinct in the Bronx -- could lead to a decrease in grand larcenies.

"This is a simple AirTag hidden in a car at a location that a person is not aware of is an excellent tracking device. It's easy to monitor," Adams said. "All of a sudden you get alerted that your car is moving. It's actually showing you in real time where the car is located."

READ MORENew York Attorney General Letitia James issues warning about AirTag tracking

"They going to give it for free? Oh yeah? That's good," said Mamath Niane of Parkchester.

Mayor Adams encourages New Yorkers to put AirTags in cars 14:03

At the Castle Hill Library, the mayor said the nonprofit the Association for a Better New York is funding the AirTags.

The NYPD says the precinct has the highest rates of grand larceny autos in the city and Chief of Patrol John Chell says citywide Hondas, Hyundais and Kias are big targets.

He said specifically that there has been a astronomical increase in stolen Hyundai and Kias, compared to last year.

"There's a manufacturer's defect in both those autos, where it's a plastic cylinder that covers the car. You can remove that plastic cylinder with a hardware screwdriver and a USB port that would use your iPhone and would start that car up right away," Chell said.

"When you go onto TikTok, they actually show in this challenge of stealing the car, they actually show how to use the everyday cord you charge your phone, how to jumpstart the car," Adams said.

READ MORE17 states urge recall of Kia and Hyundai cars following spike in thefts

The NYPD says officers will not have access to the tracking info related to the AirTags being given out.

"The owner realizes car that there car is missing for whatever reason, they call us and we'll look at their phone and we'll use their phone to track the vehicle," Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said.

The mayor says the crimes are often tied to a pattern in robberies, possession of firearms and hit-and-runs. The city is looking for other corporations to partner with to donate more AirTags to vehicle owners citywide.

CBS2 was told vehicle owners interested in getting an AirTag should call the local precinct to request one.

Those who have Android phones likely won't be eligible because AirTags are an Apple product and only work with iPhones.

If you want to watch the video the NYPD put out about the program, please click here.

Hyundai Motor America says it is committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of its products and shared the following statement:

"A subset of Hyundai vehicles on the road in the U.S. today - primarily "base trim" or entry-level models - are not equipped with push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices. It is important to clarify that an engine immobilizer is an anti-theft device and these vehicles are fully compliant with federal anti-theft requirements. Thieves discovered a specific method by which to bypass the vehicles' security features and then documented and promoted their exploits on TikTok and other social media channels.

"In response, Hyundai has taken comprehensive action to assist our customers, including: (1) made engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021; (2) fully rolled out a free software upgrade to prevent the method of theft involved, two months ahead of schedule; (3) introduced a program in partnership with AAA insurers to offer insurance options in most states for eligible affected Hyundai customers; (4) initiated a program to reimburse affected customers for their purchase of steering wheel locks; (5) launched to provide owners with information on all of the support options available and created a dedicated customer service support team and call center, 888-498-0390, to assist impacted owners.

"Hyundai is committed to continuing our efforts in completing the software upgrade for all affected vehicles in the most effective manner possible. We are communicating with NHTSA on our many actions to assist our customers."

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