MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A shocking spike in vehicle thefts is happening across Memphis. Thousands have been reported stolen and officers say they’re making thousands of arrests.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the city is considering taking legal action against two auto manufacturers for allegedly substandard security that makes them easy to steal.
“We are looking at a lawsuit like the other cities are, and hopefully, we will have something to present to the council pretty soon on that issue about hiring a law firm,” he said.
Data just released by the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission that shows the first half of 2023, vehicle theft reports were up 130 percent in Memphis and 126 percent in the county compared to the same time last year.
“We need some conclusion on this,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. “That’s an enormous number.”
Memphis Police say the vehicles stolen the most are Hyundais and Kias, and they have blamed social media videos showing how to steal the cars using a screw driver and USB charger.
Other cities report seeing the same trends. Cleveland, St. Louis, and others have filed lawsuits alleging the auto makers did not install anti-theft technology to cut costs. They said it made it easier to steal the vehicles and made their city more dangerous.
The lawsuit filed by the city of Columbus, Ohio reads in part, “The security system for these cars is so substandard that it can be exploited by a middle-schooler.”
Columbus leaders stated it’s “cost consumers, insurance companies, local government and law enforcement millions of dollars over the past year alone.”
They want the court to compel “Kia and Hyundai to alleviate the cost of damages sustained by the city.”
Kia has responded to those lawsuits saying they have no merit. Hyundai said it’s committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of its products.
Strickland said other action must be taken as well, especially within the justice system.
“These young people are finding out there’s no downside of stealing a car. Even if they’re caught, they get right back out there,” Strickland said.
WREG Investigator Zaneta Lowe has also been tracking these car makers offering free, anti-theft repairs, but found out millions of car owners have yet to take advantage.
She wants to hear from you if your Kia or Hyundai has been stolen. Please fill out this short survey.