COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Car thefts are on the rise in central Ohio and the ages of the thieves are getting younger.

Columbus police said more teens are getting involved in stealing vehicles and social media videos could be partly to blame.

Columbus Police Cmdr. Duane Mabry with the property crimes bureau said at this same time last year, there had been 43 attempted car thefts reported. In 2022, that number is 733, an increase of more than 1,600 percent.

The number of actual car thefts has risen as well. In 2021, there were just under 3,000 thefts; this year, just under 4,000, a 34 percent increase.

Mabry said 45 percent of the cars stolen are Kias and Hyundais, which have seen an increase in thefts nationwide thanks to online videos showing how easy it can be to steal them.

Mabry said some local teens see the videos as some sort of viral challenge and are daring each other to see just how far they can take this dangerous game.

“We’re seeing groups of kids four and five deep in a car, that they’re going around in a stolen car to steal a series of other cars or they’re stealing a bunch of cars and dumping a stolen car,” Mabry said. “And so they’re hitting, particularly the northeast part of the city. Mifflin, Linden, and they’re going up to Easton and hitting Easton, Gahanna, and those areas up in the northeast part of the city.”

He said these crimes are impacting every part of the city and are leading to other crimes. So far, at least four homicides in the city have been connected to cars stolen by teens, a number police are working to keep from growing.