COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Car thefts in the Columbus area are skyrocketing in 2022, and police say old technology from two car manufacturers is giving thieves a new way to steal your vehicle.
“For these kids, it’s a game and it’s a status symbol to see how many they can steal in a day, and then they’re using these cars to commit a series of other crimes,” explains Commander Duane Mabry with the Columbus Division of Police.
According to Columbus police, over 2,000 cars stolen have been stolen since the beginning of the year.
But they say many of these thieves aren’t using traditional methods.
“What they’re doing is peeling the column and using a USB — or whatever they can find nearby — to turn the ignition and then steal the car,” Mabry describes.
With this new tactic, CPD says thieves are targeting two types of vehicles in particular.
“Kias and Hyundais are sister companies, and they are prevalent throughout the city of Columbus. It’s a very popular car to buy,” says Mabry. “More than half of these cars that are stolen in this area are Kias and Hyundais.”
Dee Holleran fell victim when her 2016 Kia Sedona was stolen from the parking lot at work nearly two weeks ago.
“They stick a USB somewhere in there, and literally it took them 40 seconds to jack my car,” says Holleran describing the surveillance video from work. “Who would steal a mom van? Much less a 6-year-old mom van. But yeah, it was gone.”
Holleran’s car was stolen in the Easton area, near Morse and Stelzer roads, what Mabry calls a hotbed for thefts like these.
“Just on this precinct where we’re standing, right here alone, there were 95 cars stolen in the same time period last year and this year we’re talking 213 cars. And of those, 113 of which are these Korean cars, these Kias and Hyundais.”
As a mother, Holleran’s biggest concern went beyond her missing car.
“Who’s going to get hurt? Who are they going to run over? Whose permanent property, house, garage, whatever, is going to get damaged?” she questions.
Echoing what Mabry says has become a troubling trend for teens in the community.
“These are gateway crimes for these juveniles,” says Mabry. “These crimes directly correlate to violent crimes.”
Mabry says the best way to protect yourself from falling victim is to avoid making yourself a target.
He recommends hiding all valuables, locking your car in a garage if you can, and even using older tactics like “the club” or other wheel locking devices.