Across the U.S., car theft is on the rise. From 2020 to 2021, it increased by 6 percent, following a 17 percent increase from 2019 to 2020. The problem is worse in certain cities, like Columbus, Ohio, and Denver, Colorado, which have experienced high numbers of Hyundai and Kia thefts.3 However, it’s unclear why those car types are being targeted apart from the fact that they are easier to steal for reasons we detail below.
From July 2021 to 2022, car theft attempts in Columbus rose from 43 to 733, an increase of over 1,600 percent. As for actual car thefts, Columbus saw 3,000 in 2021 and 4,000 in 2022, a 34 percent increase, according to Duane Marby, the city’s police commander.
Significantly, 45 percent of the cars stolen were Kias and Hyundais, thefts that are attributed to the viral TikTok videos. Unfortunately, some of the thefts have also been connected to other crimes, including at least four homicides.4
The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area was the No. 2 core-based statistical area in the U.S. for auto theft in 2021, with 964 cars stolen per 100,000 residents, according to NICB data. As of February 2, 2023, the neighborhood around the Denver International Airport had the highest motor vehicle theft rates in the state, with 61.74 thefts per 1,000 residents, or 76 total instances so far in 2023.5
Notably, auto theft in Denver increased by 160 percent from 2018 to 2022. The majority of cars stolen were Hyundai and Kia models, according to local reports.6