ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Seven cars were stolen and police recorded three attempted thefts over the weekend. In one case, a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl were arrested.
Rockford Police say multiple cars were targeted by thieves in an escalation of an already rising occurrence of car theft. Four of the vehicles have been recovered, police said.
“In the last few days, we’ve had several more reports of cars being broken into in a variety of different places in the city. It’s not necessarily isolated to one area,” said Sgt. Ryan Flanagan of the Beloit Police Department.
Beloit Police on Monday also reported there had been several car thefts and burglaries over the weekend.
Flanagan said there are two types of predominant crimes Rockford police are seeing more and more:
“One is typically a person who is just going through cars, looking for loose change, any valuables that might be in it, and then the other one has been people that are going into cars to steal them,” he said.
Police say young teenagers are often the culprits of car thefts, targeting Kia and Hyundai models that lack an anti-theft device which was exploited by users on TikTok.
“We’ve been dealing with kids anywhere from ages 12 to 17 is usually like the age range we’re dealing with. We’ve been really good in Rockford, South Beloit, Rock and Roscoe, Janesville. All the agencies around us have been really good about trying to communicate out what’s out there and moving around because they know that they just go from one jurisdiction to the other and steal and ditch, steal and then ditch them. So we’re recovering cars from Madison, Milwaukee, all over the place,” Flanagan said.
At least one class action lawsuit has been filed against Kia and Hyundai, claiming the cars do not comply with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that requires cars to have an engine immobilizer that prevents activation of the engine and locks the steering column once the key is removed.
According to the lawsuit, “All a thief needs to do is strip the ignition column, exposing a piece that pops off, and then stick (in) a USB drive, a knife or some other similar tool, to start the vehicle without a key or code.”
In a statement, Kia America said it was “aware of the rise in vehicle thefts” and said its 2022 models have the immobilizer in place. Hyundai, also, said the engine immobilizers are standard in new vehicles.
Flanagan urges owners of affected Kia and Hyundai cars to install an aftermarket anti-theft device.
“Lock your car doors prevents these people from getting into your cars, [get a] steering wheel lock if you own any of those cars,” he said. “We would say, contact your dealership and find out whatever they can do for the ignition.”
He also advised residents to report suspicious behavior.
“When you see abnormal stuff, then just give us a call. And if it’s nothing, it’s nothing. If it’s something that at least we were on top of it. So, we always just tell people, stay vigilant. It’s not about being paranoid. It’s about being prepared,” he said.