ST. LOUIS–Police say auto theft numbers in St. Louis have already passed those for all of 2021, with more than three months left in 2022, fueled by the flaws in Kia and Hyundai model years that have been exposed as theft magnets.
As of September 15, St. Louis Metropolitan Police report 4,588 stolen vehicles, compared to 4,132 for all of 2021.
Thieves have taken advantage of a flaw that allows them to circumvent ignition systems in Kia and Hyundai models prior to the 2022 model year.
St. Louis officials have been calling for a full recall, while the manufacturers say they have backed police efforts to make steering wheel lock devices available for free. An August letter to the manufacturers warned that the flaws were helping to spur a surge in violent crime in St. Louis, and that they had 30 days to mitigate the problems or face further action, including a lawsuit.
Hyundai will start selling a security kit October 1 but did not answer specifically Monday when asked why the kits won’t be provided at no cost to consumers.
St. Louis Public Safety Director Dr. Dan Isom confirmed Monday that the manufacturers have responded to the city’s letter, but that their answers didn’t carry a promise of a more immediate fix to the problem.
“Many other cars aren't being stolen, Chryslers, Chevys, Hondas, all of these cars aren't being stolen at a record pace and so although some people may disagree with holding the manufacturer responsible, I do think that is one more strategy we put on the table, not that we dismiss the other ones of holding people accountable,” Isom said. “But the simple fact is there is an electronic fix that would prevent all of this.”
Between September 1 and September 15, St. Louis police say they arrested 24 people in connection with stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles. Police said 18 of them were juveniles.