GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — They're called the "Kia Boyz" and they continue to target cars in West Michigan, specifically 2012 to 2022 Kia Sportage and Optima vehicles, plus Hyundai vehicles with standard key ignitions.
After getting into the car with or without force, the thieves dismantle the steering column and override the ignition system by force and then drive away.
According to the Grand Rapids Police Department, between May 1 and July 7, there were 256 thefts and attempted thefts of Kia's and Hyundai's in the City of Grand Rapids, that's nearly four a day.
Police say a group of kids or younger adults steal the cars for fun or to then use them to commit other crimes and they learn how to do it on social media.
It's a trend on TikTok across multiple area codes, including the 616.
The TikTok videos range from people driving around with a missing steering wheel column cover to GRPD chasing down a Kia driver.
Cassandra Ramos of Grand Rapids says an alleged stolen Kia was dropped off in front of her house overnight on Tuesday, July 5 and she recorded the encounter on her cell phone.
"I didn't realize at the time that they were armed with a gun and so I just started recording because I know that Kia's are being stolen around Grand Rapids," said Ramos. "I started recording just to have some kind of evidence."
She says someone dropped off the gray Kia that had a missing license plate, as well as a broken window.
The steering wheel column cover was even left on the ground. The driver then hopped into a red SUV with multiple passengers that sped off.
She did report the incident to police, though this isn't the first time she has seen the so called "Kia Boyz."
'We drove through East Grand Rapids last night looking at nice houses and another group of "Kia Boyz" rode past us hanging out the windows. We know it was them because that's what they do. They hang out the windows of their cars, like half their bodies out. They almost ran a stop sign and hit us."
To prevent yourself from becoming a victim police recommend:
- Buy a steering wheel lock.
- Lock your car.
- Make sure the alarm is on.
- Park in well-lit areas or garage.
- Use camera surveillance systems.
"My nieces next door and my son and nephew are scared of Kias and are always on the lookout," said Ramos. "They see a Kia and they automatically think it's stolen."
A spokesperson for Hyundai sent 13 ON YOUR SIDE the following statement:
"Hyundai Motor America is concerned with the rise in local auto thefts. The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority. These vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and engine immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles. Hyundai customers that have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151."
Kia did not respond to our request for comment Thursday.
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