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Police to provide anti

Nov 15, 2023

February 18, 2023 / 10:55 PM / CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE -- Baltimore County Police have a plan to reduce the number of vehicles that are being stolen as part of a TikTok theft challenge targeting Hyundai and Kia vehicles: give out steering wheel locks, according to authorities.

The nationwide auto theft pattern recently prompted Hyundai and Kia to roll out software updates and make them available for free to millions of people who own vehicles that are missing a key anti-theft device.

The Baltimore County Police Department announced on Saturday that its officers will assist Hyundai Motor Company by distributing free steering wheel locks to Baltimore County residents.

The locks are available to county residents who own a Hyundai vehicle that was manufactured between 2016 and 2021 and that does not have a key fob or a push-button that starts the vehicle, according to authorities.

To qualify for a steering wheel lock, county residents must provide a copy of their vehicle registration to the Baltimore County Police Department, police said.

County residents can email that information to the Baltimore County Police at [email protected], according to authorities.

Anyone who does not have access to a computer can contact 410-887-2210 for assistance, police said.

Registration is required since supplies are limited. Emails must be received by Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, according to authorities.

"Protecting those who live, work and visit Baltimore County is our top priority, and this campaign is one way we can achieve that," interim Baltimore County police chief Dennis Delp said in a statement.

The software updates that Hyundai is are offering motorists is specific to particular models made within the past several years.

Hyundai began providing the updates on Tuesday for nearly 4 million vehicles beginning with a million model year 2017-2020 Elantra, 2015-2019 Sonata and 2020-2021 Venue vehicles.

The software upgrade is scheduled to be available for the remaining eligible vehicles by June.

Hyundai dealers will perform the upgrade, which will take less than one hour to install, police said.

Everyone who receives an upgrade will also get window decals to alert would-be thieves that the vehicle is equipped with enhanced anti-theft technology, according to authorities.

The software being released updates the theft alarm software logic to extend the length of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to one minute and requires the key to be in the ignition switch to turn the vehicle on.

About 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias are eligible for the software update, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday.

Hyundai says all models produced after Nov. 1, 2021, have immobilizers as standard equipment.

Insurance companies have taken notice of the elevated theft rates. State Farm said in January that it has temporarily stopped offering insurance for some model years and trim levels of Hyundai and Kia vehicles in some states because thieves were targeting the cars.

"This is a serious problem impacting our customers and the entire auto insurance industry," a State Farm spokesperson told CBS News last month.

The insurer didn't specify which types of Hyundai and Kia vehicles are affected, nor in which states it has suspended new insurance policies for the cars.

TikTok challenge linked to crashes and deaths

A TikTok social media challenge put a spotlight on the vehicles' lack of an immobilizer and resulted in at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities, according to the NHTSA. The challenge shows TikTok viewers how to hot-wire Kia and Hyundai cars with a USB cord and a screwdriver.

In October a police commissioner said that a car crash in Buffalo, New York that left four teenagers dead may have been linked to the TikTok challenge. In the incident, a total of six teenagers were in a speeding Kia that crashed, Buffalo police said. The car had been reported stolen.

Hyundai and Kia will start software updates later this month, with subsequent phases over the next several months. Hyundai will also provide window stickers to vehicle owners that alert would-be thieves that the vehicle has anti-theft protection.

Vehicle owners can contact Hyundai at 800-633-5151 and Kia at 800-333-4542 for information on the software update.

First published on February 18, 2023 / 8:49 PM

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BALTIMORE --TikTok challenge linked to crashes and deaths