Mar 21, 2023 - News

Grand theft auto is spiking in Chicago

Police-reported car thefts in Chicago
Reproduced from USAFacts; Chart: Axios Visuals

Chicago has seen a rise in car thefts, according to data from USAFacts.

Driving the news: Chicago and several other major cities — from Baltimore to Cleveland to Atlanta — saw a spike in car thefts from 2019 to 2022, per USAFacts. And many are pointing to a recent TikTok trend as a reason.

  • A number of these thefts were of Kia and Hyundai vehicles after a social media challenge encouraged thieves to target these vehicles.

The big picture: There were 468,821 total thefts reported in 2022 across all the cities reviewed by the USAFacts data.

  • That's much higher than in 2021 (411,935 reported thefts), as well as in 2020 (361,550) and 2019 (318,467).
  • Thefts in some areas jumped 400% from 2019 to 2022, while others rose by at least 100%, according to USAFacts.

Zoom in: Reported car thefts in Chicago doubled from December 2021 to December 2022, per USAFacts.

  • Thefts of Kias and Hyundais here are rising quickly. More than 550 Kias or Hyundais were reported stolen in the first half of 2022. That number jumped to 6,250 in the second half.
  • Kias and Hyundais made up 55% of the 2,200-plus car thefts in the city last December.

The latest: Just last week, police warned residents of an uptick in Hyundai and Kia thefts in Bronzeville.

  • Police reported six thefts in a week but wouldn't say whether they believe one crew is behind the thefts.

Between the lines: Thieves nationwide are targeting Hyundais and Kias due to design flaws in the cars, Axios' Annalise Frank writes.

  • Thieves will break windows and remove parts of the steering column cover, then start the vehicle with a screwdriver or a plugin from a USB device.
  • Knowledge of this tactic has spread from viral videos demonstrating how to steal the cars within seconds.

The intrigue: We reported last fall that police-reported carjackings are down from peaks during the pandemic.

What they're saying: When we spoke to CPD spokesperson Thomas Ahern back then, he told us that police "have seen a significant increase in auto theft since last June."

  • "Auto theft is less risky with the same reward. Criminals have shifted their focus to stealing a vehicle rather than violent carjacking."

What's next: Kia and Hyundai have released new "theft deterrent software" for more than 8 million vehicles in response to the trend.

  • TikTok said in a statement to the Washington Post that it "does not condone this behavior which violates our policies and will be removed if found on our platform."
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