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Berkeley police say thefts of Hyundai, Kia vehicles on rise after TikTok challenge

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BERKELEY -- Police in Berkeley are reporting an increase in thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles since December, saying the noticeable increase in thefts of these vehicles throughout the city may be in part due to a social media challenge.

Since December 2022, thefts of Hyundais and Kias have made up 38 percent of vehicle thefts from Berkeley, police said. The vehicles being targeted are earlier models that are not equipped with an engine immobilizer.

 A TikTok social media challenge put a spotlight on the vehicles' lack of an immobilizer. The challenge shows TikTok viewers how to hot-wire Kia and Hyundai cars with a USB cord and a screwdriver.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, auto thefts related to the TikTok challenge are believed to have led to at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities. Hyundai and Kia are now rolling out software updates to stem the thefts.

The Berkeley Police Department is encouraging owners of Hyundais and Kias to contact the automakers to obtain the latest theft deterrent software, as well as to consider using a steering wheel lock for a parked vehicle and to park vehicles in a garage or at well-traveled and well-lit locations.

Police are also asking anyone who sees someone who appears to be trying to steal a vehicle to report it as soon as possible.

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