Spokane authorities warn of epidemic of cars so easy to steal, teenagers are doing it
(The Center Square) - The Spokane County Sheriff's office, in conjunction with the Spokane Police Department, have issued a warning to any Kia or Hyundai owner without a push-to-start button – your car may be so easy to steal, a teenager as young as 13 could do it.
The problem is so prevalent, affecting some 3.8 million Hyundais and 4.5 million Kias nationwide, that some car owners have even resorted to hiding Apple Air Tags in their vehicles to locate them when they're stolen.
The city and county have teamed up to form a task force to address the problem.
"The Kia/Hyundai Auto Theft Task Force brings together city and county law enforcement units already working the growing number of car and camera thefts, developing cases and identifying several groups of what appear to be mainly juveniles. The task force brings additional focus and resources, facilitating comprehensive investigations that lead to arrests and recovery of property," said the joint news release from both SCSO and SPD addressing the recent trend.
The latest arrest resulting from the task force's work involved the arrest of two juveniles aged thirteen and fourteen, who were identified as party to a 2-day crime spree.
Those two recent arrests join two other fourteen-year-olds who were previously arrested by authorities with the assistance of the task force.
"The cumulative total for these four suspects currently is 26 felonies, 10 gross misdemeanors, and 1 misdemeanor crime, including Robbery, Vehicle and Attempted Vehicle Theft, Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle, Possession of Stolen Property, Malicious Mischief 1st - 3rd Degree, Possession of Another's ID and Possession of Burglary Tools," the news release goes on to say, before reassuring readers that all four of the teenagers remain in police custody as of Wednesday afternoon.
The uptick in Ring camera thefts is also under investigation by the task force.
Included in the news release was a Youtube video of the crimes, presumably either uploaded by the teenagers to social media or pulled from cell phones after their arrest. It shows multiple clips of individuals smashing in windshields, doing burnouts so long the camera becomes obscured, and traveling at speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour.
The task force wants residents to know that when crimes are committed in this manner by juveniles, they "are doing so to damage them and video their activities," They added that the theft of ring cameras can cause significant distress, with the teens often leaving notes behind after a camera theft meant to taunt and intimidate residents in their own home.
There's a financial burden in addition to property damage.
"These crimes are a huge disruption to the lives of those whose vehicles are stolen, costing them thousands of dollars in repairs and affecting their - and the communities - insurance rates, which are partially based on crime rates," the release notes, before asking residents to report any activity related to these crimes to Crime Check at 509-456-2233.
Ultimately, vehicle thefts are the bulk of the financial burden, and where residents should proactively focus their efforts.
"If you own a Kia/Hyundai without a push-to-start button, it is recommended you contact your dealership to see if there is a free dealer update for your vehicle," the authorities warn in the news release.
Owners can refer to the National Highway and Traffic Safety news release on the matter from February 2023 for more information, or talk with their local dealership.