KENTWOOD, Mich. — The City of Kentwood, Grand Rapids and neighboring cities in Kent County are seeing an uptick in specific Kia and Hyundai vehicle thefts.
It's a nationwide trend that has come to West Michigan seemingly in the last month.
Thieves are targeting 2012 to 2022 Kia Sportage and Optima vehicles, plus Hyundai vehicles with standard key ignition.
After getting into the car with or without force, thieves dismantle the steering column and override the ignition system by force and then drive away.
Since May 1, Kentwood Police have had 24 cases of these particular cars stolen.
These thefts are happening mainly during the early morning hours from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m.
"Typically it's a group of kids doing this or younger adults," said Sgt. Tim Wierenga with Kentwood PD. "They go around in a group targeting large parking lots where they can go through a lot of cars quickly, is my guess."
Chief of Police Eric Winstrom with Grand Rapids Police says people find out how to steal the cars on YouTube or social media. They steal the cars for fun or to then commit crimes.
"It has started popping up more and more," said Winstrom. "There's a group of kids out there that call themselves the 'Kia Gang'. That's what they do and they've been focusing on stealing these cars."
To prevent becoming a victim, do the basic things: lock your car, make sure the alarm is on, park in well-lit areas or garage, and use camera surveillance systems.
"Outside of that for this trend alone, things like getting the wheel locks are very good deterrents because someone looks in that vehicle and typically they're smashing that window to get in or using an unlocked car," said Wierenga.
During a news conference Friday, May 20, Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young stated one of the cars involved in the shooting at a graduation ceremony Thursday evening was a white Hyundai stolen in Kentwood.
It's believed the Hyundai was involved in other stolen vehicle thefts within the area.
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