Mayor Eric Adams joined Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Deputy Mayor Philip Banks on Thursday to warn New Yorkers of a series of car thefts reportedly spurred on by social media.
According to mayor Adams, a social media trend known as the “Kia Boyz TikTok challenge” that began gaining traction in mid-2022 is seeing teens steal Kia and Hyundai cars. Due to an alleged defect in these vehicles, the joy riders are able to gain easy access to the automobiles, putting themselves and the public at risk.
“Just really emphasizes my continuous call of the responsible behavior of social media and what social media is doing to a generation of our children. Just yesterday we had young people who climbed to the top of one of our bridges and they were noticed taking photos. The challenges that you see on social media is creating challenges for parents to raise children in a proper environment,” Mayor Adams said. “This challenge in particular with Kia and Hyundai, we see it as not only stealing a vehicle, but it’s stealing the future of young people. When you are arrested for a grand larceny auto, it is a felony. It remains on your record; it impacts your life in a real way. And in some of these cases, the vehicles are being used in crimes.”
Police say the young thieves target vehicles on the market from 2011 to 2021 and remove plastic coverings from steering columns before using everyday objects such as USB cables to turn the broken ignition. It is partly due to this simple method that teens are believed to be daring one another to perform the break-ins. Hizzoner also pointed out that these vehicles can be returned to the manufacturers in order for the defect to be rectified through software upgrades.
“It could actually be done by returning to the auto dealers so that they can improve on the anti-theft measures, but we also need to educate the public, and that’s what we want to ensure that these vehicles are not stolen. And we want parents to play an active role in these types of social media challenges, that particularly we want to emphasize many of them are coming on TikTok,” Adams declared. “Stealing a car, going on a joyride, speeding through the streets, that is not a game.”
NYPD’s top cop warned that this issue is not only taking place in the Big Apple but also growing nationwide as well. While Sewell stressed the importance of owners themselves taking their own protective steps such as using steering wheel locking devices and activating alarms, she also announced that law enforcement will be bolstering their presence in target areas, such as the Bronx and Northern Manhattan where about 10 to 12 cars were stolen each month late last year.
“Our Auto Crime Division, Detective Bureau, Crime Prevention Division, Community Outreach Division, and local precinct officers are all focused on this issue. We deploy our personnel to areas of increased auto theft, enroll community members and anti-theft programs like our catalytic converter etching program, and investigate every incident. There is no such thing as a victimless crime, as the mayor said, and anyone who steals a vehicle in New York City will be pursued, arrested, and held accountable,” Sewell said.
The commissioner also stated that many of the vehicles are primarily used for joyriding before later being found abandoned.