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Florida law enforcement agencies scramble to find solutions to a TikTok trend

Photo shows a parked car with a broken front window after a smash-and-grab break-in in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Damian Dovarganes/AP
Photo shows a parked car with a broken front window after a smash-and-grab break-in in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, since 2021 car thefts have risen in the state of Florida by 6%. The Sunshine State now ranks fourth in the nation for stolen vehicles.

On Tuesday, 28-year-old Monee Hill fell victim to an attempted car robbery at her apartment complex in Tallahassee. She says she locked her doors and removed her belongings, but that was not enough to save her 2010 Hyundai Sonata from being targeted.

“I saw all my stuff on the floor," said Hill. "It was rummaged through as if they were trying to steal everything. Then, I went over to the driver’s side and my dash was cracked. Honestly, I was upset.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a viral TikTok challenge done in 2021, exposed Hyundai and Kia’s lackluster security software.

“More than half a million cars in Florida need this fix."

In February, the agency reported that the automakers failed to install anti-theft immobilizers for most of its models. Since then, Hyundais and Kias have become easy targets for car thieves. Last month, vehicle-analytics companies like Carfax began partnering with the manufacturers to solve the problem. Patrick Olson, Carfax editor-in-chief, told WFSU the company is doing its best to spread the word.

"What Carfax is doing is we are providing information on our vehicle history reports that let people know if they’re considering one of these cars used, we will tell you whether or not the work has been to fixed done to fix that car,” said Olson.

How do you become eligible for compensation?

Back in May, Hyundai Motors and Kia America reached a $200 million settlement for car theft victims. The automakers agreed to not only update the victim’s security software, but also compensate for any damage done to the vehicle, items stolen, and supply a free steering wheel lock for an added layer of protection.

“You can call your local Hyundai or Kia dealership. It doesn’t need to be the dealership where you brought the car at, any dealership will help you, said Olson. "Tell them your vehicle identification number and they will tell you if your car needs the work done, you can set an appointment, it takes about one hour, and the work will be done at completely no charge to you.”

As of last week, Florida remains second only to California with 502,000 vehicles still needing to be serviced.

If you are a Hyundai or Kia owner, these models are eligible for a software upgrade:

Hyundai: 2011-2019 Sonata; 2011-2022 Tucson; 2011-2022 Elantra; 2013-2014 Genesis Coupe; 2013-2018 Santa Fe Sport; 2013-2020 Elantra GT; 2013-2022 Santa Fe; 2018-2021 Veloster; 2018-2022 Accent; 2018-2022 Kona; 2019 Santa Fe XL; 2020-2021 Venue; 2020-2021 Palisade.

Kia: 2010-2022 Soul; 2011-2020 Optima; 2011-2021 Forte; 2011-2021 Rio; 2011-2021 Sedona; 2021-2022 Seltos; 2011-2022 Sorento; 2011-2022 Sportage; 2021-2022 K5.

Safety Tips

Clearwater Police Department urges motorists to avoid leaving valuables such as car keys, purses, and garage openers inside unlocked vehicles. WFSU spoke with CPD's Rob Shaw. He says too many people are not adhering to the recommendations.

“Two nights ago, we had about a dozen unlocked vehicle burglaries in one town home complex and basically this would probably be young juveniles going car to car," said Shaw. "If your door is locked you’re fine, they just go on to the next one.”

While locking car doors may seem like a simple task, a study done by Tallahassee Police showed that 85% of car burglaries in the state capital involved unlocked vehicles.

Copyright 2023 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Adrian Andrews