CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Three people living in one apartment complex in Champaign started their Thursday morning with shattering news. Their cars were broken into with the intent of driving away with them.
The thefts happened at Hunter’s Pond Apartments in northern Champaign. All three cars were Kia models; two of the cars were towed away while one was stopped in its tracks.
The would-be thieves were gone by the time police got to Hunters Pond Apartments around 5 a.m.
It’s all a part of a nationwide trend targeting not only Kias, but Hyundais as well. None of the cars’ owners wanted to speak on camera but they did provide WCIA with details and pictures. Champaign Police recognized the damage that had been done.
“The damage reflected a viral social media trend, in which would-be thieves force entry on a Kia or Hyundai and attempt to exploit a security vulnerability to steal a vehicle,” Deputy Chef Kevin Olmstead said in a statement. “The thieves were unsuccessful in stealing these vehicles.”
One owner said she noticed her back window was busted as she was coming back from her morning run. When she looked inside, she saw the damage was much worse.
The suspects destroyed her steering wheel column in their attempt. She said it’s no surprise they couldn’t get away. Only cars before the 2021 model can be stolen in the viral way, and hers was a 2022 model. Although the car wasn’t stolen, it can no longer be driven because of the damage.
The would-be thieves were able to get the other Kia started, but that owner got the latest security patch. She said they were only able to get about 20 feet away before the car stopped.
That software patch is one of two methods Olmstead pointed at to prevent these thefts.
“Champaign Police urge Kia and Hyundai owners to contact local dealerships and ensure that their car receives all necessary recalls, including a software security patch that limits the ability to steal these vehicles,” he said.
The other method Olmstead mentioned was steering wheel locks. He said the department still has some for Kia and Hyundai owners at no cost; they just need to stop by the department’s headquarters at 82 E. University Avenue and provide their current vehicle registration.
Olmstead added that the investigation into the three burglaries at Hunters Pond Apartment is still ongoing. Officers will also conduct additional patrols in the area to provide a visible presence and increased security.