Instances of carjacking and vehicle theft have begun to reach epidemic proportions in the United States, with significant rises recorded throughout major cities. But why is this happening? And what can car owners do to keep their vehicles safe?
According to Yahoo statistics, car theft has grown by a staggering 24% across seven large US cities between 2019 and 2022.
So deep is America’s problem with carjacking that almost half a million vehicles were stolen in the first half of 2022, amounting to an estimated $4.5 billion worth of losses.
“There is very little deterrent to stopping these criminals because vehicle thefts are property crimes,” explained David Glawe, President and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
“Since the start of the pandemic, used car prices have increased 35 to 40 per cent. Criminals are exploiting these high prices as vehicle and catalytic converter thefts are crimes of opportunity. And crime is a business, and business is good.”
The emergence of high inflation rates and its implications on the ongoing cost-of-living crisis has caused an increase in car theft, with thieves becoming more desperate to use crime to recover from deepening financial turmoil.
“Vehicle theft is rising very steeply, and we are worried that more cars will be taken this year as gangs continue to attack innocent drivers in by taking their prized possessions,” said Gus Park, managing director of UK insurance firm, AA.
In the United Kingdom, car thefts are also growing at a rapid pace, with a 29% increase in carjackings reported in September 2022 in comparison to the same period last year.
To make matters worse, it appears that social media platforms have inadvertently helped to teach users about unconventional ways to steal certain types of car–leading to fresh headaches for car owners:
How Social Media Has Opened the Door to Car Theft
While the rising economic headwinds have invariably caused more instances of crime, car owners are also having to contend with social media platforms like TikTok, which has featured videos that essentially act as tutorials on how to steal specific cars.
This has led to something of a standoff between cities, which blame manufacturers like Kia and Hyundai for peaks in car thefts, and the automobile firms themselves highlighting a more ‘coordinated effort on social media’ which is focused on exploiting vulnerabilities.
To highlight the extent to which Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been targeted, some 67% of reported car thefts in Cleveland were of the South Korean manufacturers.
This increased targeting of Kia and Hyundai vehicles came after a series of TikTok videos posted by a group known as the ‘Kia Boys’ demonstrated how to start some Kia and Hyundai cars by using a USB charger.
The activity went viral, and although TikTok removed the videos from the platform, the movement has persisted for many months.
Today, the TikTok hashtag #KiaBoys has amassed more than 28 million views, prompting a significant issue for owners of the South Korean cars in the US and overseas.
Although high inflation rates and continuous interest rate hikes are likely to see property theft like carjacking persist, there are a number of crucial measures that owners can take in order to keep their cars safe. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the most important ways to ensure that your vehicle is kept out of the reach of criminals:
Check With Your Car Manufacturer Regarding Software Updates
This measure is particularly essential for owners of the Kias and Hyundais that have been impacted by having their software exploits posted throughout social media.
Fortunately, both Kia and Hyundai have responded to the spate of car thefts in recent months by announcing a new software update designed to require a key to be in the ignition switch in order to turn the vehicle on. Furthermore, the update will cause the alarm to sound for one minute, as opposed to 30 seconds.
Whether your car is a Kia, Hyundai, or any other vehicle, it’s certainly worth checking whether it can be taken in for further updates to ensure higher levels of security should it ever be targeted by thieves.
Remember to Find a Safe Location to Park
Oftentimes, a carjacking can take place because thieves see an opportunity to gain access to a car with less risk of being caught in the act. To counter this, it’s essential that you find more secure areas to part–particularly overnight.
“Parking in a well-lit area, locking the doors, closing the windows, removing spare keys, and making sure you haven’t left any valuables in plain sight” can all be strong measures to take, according to AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins.
Take Measures to Protect Your Key Fob
Key fobs have been a great innovation when it comes to car security, but they’re still prone to vulnerabilities. Caring for your key fobs should be just as important as caring for your car keys, and it may be worth using an Anti-RFID blocking wallet to provent tools used by thieves to replicate your fob without you knowing.
Furthermore, when it comes to reprogramming your keys, always use a professional locksmith to ensure that the job is done correctly.
Etch Your VIN on Your Windows
Another intelligent measure to take revolves around etching your vehicle identification number (VIN) on each of your car windows. This measure would mean that car thieves would need to go to the effort of replacing all of the glass in the car before selling it, which is typically a measure that can put them off even trying to break into the vehicle.
If your car doesn’t have its VIN already etched onto its windows, it may be cost-effective to begin asking professionals to add them should you ever require the services of an auto glass shop following a collision or a crack.
Install a Tracking System
Installing a tracking system for your car, otherwise known as a vehicle recovery system, can be a great measure in helping you to recover your vehicle quickly should it be targeted by thieves.
If your car is stolen, the on-board tracking system will send a wireless GPS signal directly to the police or a monitoring service to help them to pinpoint its exact location. This can be a great tool for quickly tracking down your car and bringing it safely back to you.
Naturally, it’s essential that you never do anything that could make your car seem more appealing to criminals. This means that valuable goods should never be on show, and you should always check to ensure that your doors are locked at all times.
While instances of car thefts have reached epidemic proportions in the US and beyond in recent years, taking the right precautions can be an excellent way of ensuring that you have the best possible chance of keeping your vehicle safe at all times. This can help you to look after your property with confidence, and will ensure that you’ll continue to get the best out of it for years to come.