ST. LOUIS — Rachel Mosqueda had health problems last month and was away from her one-bedroom apartment in the city’s Tower Grove South neighborhood for about a month. Her white 2014 Kia Sportage was parked untouched on the grounds of her apartment the entire time.
But within a day of her return, on the afternoon of July 27, someone broke into Mosqueda’s car and tried to drive it away. Instead, they damaged the wiring under the steering wheel, blocked contact and left the vehicle where it was parked.
The damage rendered the car impassable, Mosqueda said.
She would later find out, when the Kia was towed to an auto repair shop, that whoever broke into the car had caused $2,700 in damage — a claim that has still not been approved by Mosqueda’s insurance company nearly three weeks later.
So her car is parked at an auto repair shop (along with, she’s told, a nearly identical Kia with similar damage) while she borrows her mom’s car to get around.
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“It’s been a bit painful, I mean, the whole process has been a disaster,” Mosqueda told the Post-Dispatch on Monday. “But I try to see it as a positive, you know. Maybe it saved me from a car accident or something. I’m just trying not to think about it in an ominous way.”
The number of stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles in the St. Louis area has exploded in recent months, a trend seen nationwide thanks to a viral TikTok video of a Milwaukee gang calling themselves the “Kia Boyz.” The video teaches and encourages young people to break into these cars and drive away using only a screwdriver and a USB charging cable.
The hack only works with models that require a key to start the ignition, rather than push button switches.
“This (is) what you do, you drive through the hoods, you see an abandoned house and then you see if they have an open garage – (expletive), if the garage is open, you park in it,” said one boy about steal cars to a YouTuber known as Tommy G in a video about the Kia Boyz posted two months ago with more than 3.5 million views. “Sometimes your car will be there, sometimes not.”
Sergeant Gerald Shepard, chief of the St. Louis County Police Department’s Auto Theft Task Force, said the newer models are more sensitive because their ignition is easier to start without a key.
People still mainly break the windows of the car to get into the vehicle, he said.
Two cars in two days in the same place
That was not the case for Anastasiya Vasyuta, whose 2013 black Hyundai Elantra was stolen around 3 a.m. Thursday morning while parked outside her Benton Park apartment on Gravois Avenue.
Vasyuta provided surveillance footage showing a car stopping, a man getting out and unlocking her car almost immediately. The person started the car and their accomplices drove away within three minutes of the group’s arrival.
“This was the first time a car had been stolen, and it was emotionally humiliating,” she said.
But it didn’t stop there. Undoubtedly as brutal as the attempt to steal Mosqueda’s car in broad daylight, Vasyuta’s apartment security camera caught what appears to be the same group of people returning to the apartment’s parking lot the next morning, around 2 a.m., and stole a neighbor’s 2013 Hyundai. Sonata.
Her neighbor, who declined to be named for security reasons, told the Post-Dispatch that she discovered her car was gone when she went to the store to purchase a wheel clamp to prevent car theft.
“If I don’t find my car at some point, I’m just completely out of a car,” she said, pointing out that she only has liability insurance.
While these thefts took place in the city, Shepard said his task force in the province answered 50 Hyundai thefts and 50 Kia thefts in the first 11 days of August.
Of the top three most stolen Kia models, the St. Louis County Police Department has registered 200 vehicles stolen through Thursday, an increase of more than five times this year so far compared to years past – 34 in all of 2021 and 51 in all of 2020 .
Likewise, there are 207 of the three most stolen Hyundai models since the beginning of the year. In all of 2021 there were 62 vehicles and in all of 2020 51 vehicles were stolen.
The province has recovered about 45% of the 1,518 vehicles stolen this year.
Shepard said his unit has spent years working with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department on stolen car cases, another agency that has reported skyrocketing theft rates from Kias and Hyundais.
St. Louis Police Sgt. Charles Wall told the Post-Dispatch on Friday that the department has recorded a 43% increase in stolen cars this year compared to last year – 3,428 total motor vehicle thefts compared to 2,404 in the same period last year.
The department investigated 1,000 car thefts in July alone, 634 of which involved a Kia (333 incidents) or Hyundai (301 incidents).
He also noted data released by the department in June showing that thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles have more than doubled this year compared to last year: 155 reported thefts of Kia vehicles and 142 thefts of Hyundai vehicles. compared to 61 Kia thefts and 63 Hyundai thefts. last year.
Take measures to prevent theft, police say
On Monday, St. Louis Police Major Renee Kriesmann acknowledged the significant increase in thefts during a weekly police briefing. She said police this weekend in the center investigated 12 vehicle thefts (including attempted theft), nine of which involved a Kia or Hyundai.
She reminded residents that the city offers car clubs that can be purchased at City Hall in the offices of the Collector of Revenue and the Citizens Service Bureau.
Car clubs are a rod-like device that locks the steering wheel of a vehicle in place in an effort to deter thieves.
To help prevent theft, police also encourage people to remove valuables from their parked cars, especially firearms and vehicle remotes, keep their vehicles locked and never leave their vehicle unattended.
According to classaction.org, a federal class action lawsuit has been filed against the two auto companies in Iowa.
It claims that the companies failed to meet federal standards in the ignition system design.
The suit would cover anyone who has purchased a 2011-21 Hyundai or Kia vehicle in the United States in the past five years.
Both Kia and Hyundai have issued statements to national media stating that their vehicles meet federal motor vehicle safety standards.