Portland Car Thefts Again Rise, Now Spurred On by TikTok

Kia and Hyundai have issued a software update to address the rash of thefts.

The scourge of the “Kia Boyz” continues.

Eight months ago, the Portland Police Bureau issued a PSA about a new TikTok trend sweeping the nation. Armed with USB cords, kids were hot-wiring late-model Kia and Hyundai cars and tagging videos of their joyrides #KiaBoyz.

They haven’t stopped. What began as an alarming rise in thefts has become a full-blown epidemic.

In August, the bureau recorded 183 thefts of Kias and Hyundais. By January, that number had doubled. The two manufacturers now represent a third of all of Portland’s stolen cars.

YouTubers have widely documented just how easy it is to steal a Kia, which is partly owned by fellow South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai. Nationwide, the TikTok fad has resulted in 14 crashes and eight deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

And the perpetrators are often preteens. In the wee hours of Jan. 7, a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old put the trick to the test on a Kia Soul in North Portland. They were spotted speeding out of the parking lot of Javier’s Tacos and arrested.

The Soul was the most frequently stolen car in Portland in January, which had a total of 984 thefts across all makes and models. That’s the highest tally for stolen vehicles since March of last year.

The spree may be coming to an end, however. Last month, the two manufacturers issued a free “theft deterrent” software update, which requires a key to be in the ignition to turn the vehicle on.

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