BY KIT SLACK
Around 5 a.m. on Friday, June 2, Rebecca Malamud’s 2013 Hyundai Elantra was stolen in front of her home on 38th Avenue. According to Malamud, a neighbor’s security footage shows several Elantras arriving on the street just before her car was stolen, suggesting a possible series of thefts.
Malamud has anti-theft software installed on her car by Hyundai, intended to prevent what has been a rise in thefts of Elantras and Kias.
“I didn’t think it would happen to me,” said Malamud. “I wish someone had told me to put on a steering wheel lock.”
Cars like Malamud’s get stolen because they use physical steel keys, rather than push-button starts, according to the automotive news site The Drive. A thief can remove the cover of the steering column and start the car with a USB cable.
A viral TikTok challenge has spurred an increase in these thefts, according to reporting by The Baltimore Banner. Though many how-to videos tagged “Kia Boys” have now been taken down, the thefts continue.
According to Malamud, the D.C. metropolitan police found Malamud’s car on June 7, and are investigating the incident.
On May 18, a red Kia or Hyundai was involved in the armed robbery of a student at Nicholas Orem Middle School, according to a crime digest on the Hyattsville Police Department (HPD) Facebook page. Also according to an HPD crime digest, at a traffic stop on May 9, the HPD recovered a Hyundai Elantra stolen in Fairfax County, Va.
A city spokesperson said that in Hyattsville, “criminals are using stolen Hyundais and Kias as a mode of transportation to commit crimes such as carjackings.”
The number of stolen vehicles in the first three months of 2023 was 67 in Hyattsville, up from 32 in the first three months of 2022, according to HPD data. There were four carjackings in Hyattsville in the first three months of 2023, up from one in all of 2022.
As of press time, monthly crime reports for April and May had not been published on the HPD website, and the HPD had not responded to a request for updated numbers on car thefts and carjackings.
In early May, AP News published data showing that numbers of thefts continue to rise in U.S. cities despite software fixes like the one on Malumad’s car.