Mar 21, 2023 - News

Car thefts in San Francisco rise while overall crime declines

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

Car thefts in San Francisco increased from January 2019 to December 2022 while overall crime in the city dropped.

What's happening: San Francisco saw car thefts increase by about 42% from 2019 to 2022, according to data from the San Francisco Police Department.

  • In December 2022, 13% of car thefts involved Kia or Hyundai vehicles compared to vehicles from those two automakers accounting for just 3% of car thefts in December 2019, according to USAFact's analysis of data provided by SFPD.

Of note: Overall crime dropped about 7% from 2019 to 2022, according to SFPD.

The big picture: Major cities throughout the country saw a rise in car thefts from 2019 to 2022, according to new data from USAFacts. And some are pointing to a recent TikTok trend as a reason.

  • The data comes from 500 police departments with the most vehicle thefts in the last five years. About one-fifth of those departments had data for 2022. USAFacts combined the data with data from the FBI, as well as statewide data for 10 states.
  • Last June, a group called the "Kia Boyz" posted viral videos on TikTok showing how to start some Kia and Hyundai vehicles using a USB charger.

By the numbers: 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).

Across the bridge in Berkeley, 38% of all stolen vehicles since December have been Hyundais or Kias, NBC Bay Area reports.

  • That's more than triple the amount of stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles the department has previously seen, Byron White, a public information officer with the Berkeley Police Department, told NBC Bay Area.

Between the lines: San Francisco supervisors will vote today on an ordinance that would put an additional $27.6 million toward police overtime.

  • Meanwhile, the city is considering giving raises to police officers to address the city's dwindling number of officers.

What's next: Kia and Hyundai both 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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