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Tulsa police warn drivers of social media-inspired car thefts

Posted at 3:24 PM, Aug 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-29 07:20:54-04

TULSA, Okla. — A mostly teenage car theft frenzy fueled by social media is accelerating across the country, including right here in Tulsa.

Before they begin their stroll through the River Parks, with their little bundle of joy, Keely Shaye-McCoy turns back to their vehicle.

"I'm in the habit of locking it, for the most part," Shaye-McCoy said.

Police say people would be surprised about how many folks forget to lock their cars — a bad move, always, but especially now, that a troubling trend, fueled by teenage thieves.

“This has become a social media phenom,” says Lt. Chase Calhoun, with the Tulsa Police Department's Auto Theft Unit.

“They’re stealing these cars and what they’re doing is driving very dangerously, very recklessly and filming their actions. They're live streaming it, and it’s for attention, and likes, it’s a big game to them.”

Those teenagers, dubbing themselves the Kia boys, detectives say, are mostly targeting certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles, 2021 models and older, that use an inserted key, instead of a push button ignition. Tulsa police say they started seeing an uptick in those kinds of thefts here in May when school let out for the summer.

“There’s a flaw, if you will, in the mechanisms of the vehicle that allow these juveniles to easily steal the vehicles," Calhoun said.

In one case, Carol McFarland’s beloved Kia Soul was snatched from a parking garage.

“She was my pride and joy, and she’s not anymore," McFarland said.

Investigators in several states had hoped to get kids back in school, which would put the brakes on the trend. But so far, Tulsa detectives say, the numbers are not improving, and in some places, are getting worse.

So it may seem simple, but police say always lock your doors, especially if you have one of the models being targeted by thieves. It's advice Shaye-McCoy will continue to heed. She thinks that trending crime is bound to only get worse here.

She'll take the second or two it takes, to lock those doors.

"Make sure it honks when we walk away," Shaye-McCoy says.

Both Kia and Hyundai say they have corrected their most recent models. Hyundai tells NBC News immobilizers became standard for cars produced after Nov. 1 of last year, although those with older models can pay for a security fix starting in October.

Kia notes all 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change.

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