City officials across the nation have issued a new warning concerning a hazardous TikTok trend that has taken the internet by storm. Dubbed the "Kia Boyz TikTok Challenge," this ill-advised and criminal trend has spread like wildfire among teenagers, encouraging them to steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles. The Big Apple has been hit particularly hard, with a significant increase in thefts of these popular car makes in the past year.
“As a result, Kia and Hyundai set rules rapidly in communities nationwide, including here in New York City,” she said. “In response, the NYPD took immediate steps to educate the public about the problem and to provide New Yorkers with resources to address it.”
The trend targets 2011 through 2021 Kia and Hyundai models that are not equipped with remote control “key fobs,” cops said.
In September 2021, only 21 Hyundai and 7 Kia thefts were reported in the five boroughs — but the number leaped to 104 Hyundais and 99 Kias in December, according to NYPD data.
Overall, car thefts in the city jumped from 10,412 in 2021 to 13,745 last year, a 32% increase.
So far this year, police stats show 3,046 car thefts were reported overall, up about 6% from 2,869 over the same period last year — with city officials blaming TikTok for adding fuel to the fire.
Police said there had been 109 busts for thefts of the Kia and Hyundai models this year as of Sunday.
The trend has proved problematic across the nation. This week, officials in St. Louis, Missouri, filed a federal lawsuit against the automakers for allegedly failing to install anti-theft devices, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“What’s advertised today on social media can get 2 million views and it can crisscross the country at such a rapid pace. We’ve never witnessed this historically,” Adams said Thursday, noting the viral challenge was “a dangerous way for young people to carry out.”
“These vehicles can be used in vehicle crashes where people are injured,” he said. “It could be used in robberies, it could be used in other larcenies. And that’s why we’re really zeroed in on this.”
In January, social media-inspired thieves even made off with an NYPD unmarked vehicle and took it on a 12-hour joyride, according to the department.
City officials said the stolen vehicles are typically found abandoned, with the Bronx and northern Manhattan the favorite targets in the five boroughs.
Last month, the NYPD’s 122nd Precinct in Staten Island issued a warning about the trend, offering safety tips that included installing a “kill” switch, a battery disconnection device, and to use a steering wheel lock to foil would-be car thieves.
“Stealing a vehicle is not about joyriding,” Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks said Thursday. “It’s not a business crime. It has other ramifications that is very important.”
The city’s announcement comes amid a national debate on the impact of social media on society, including recent hearings on Capitol Hill to ban Chinese-owned TikTok.
“I think that it’s imperative for Congress and the federal lawmakers to do a deep dive and come up with the right way to monitor social media,” Adams said. “Not just TikTok, but all of our social media platforms.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced in February that the two automakers developed theft-deterrent software updates that are available to car owners.