BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – Kia America says it wants to work with local police to reduce the number of Kia’s and Hyundai’s that are being stolen as part of the Kia Challenge on TikTok. But, local police are raising concerns about how all that would be done.
The Kia Challenge has caught the attention of police across the country, with young people stealing Kias and at times, Hyundais to take them for a joy ride, then posting videos on social media.
Now, the car manufacturer wants to partner with local police — sending steering wheel locks to police departments here for consumers to pick up. Police are pushing back.
The Buffalo Police Department says it will not be handing out Kia steering wheel locks.
“Think it was somewhat ill-conceived, poorly planned and that we know nothing about it we have not heard of it from anybody,” said John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, “Never seen anything like it in the 21 years that I’ve been in this department.”
Local law enforcement are raising questions from storing these locks to accounting for them, and making sure consumers use them appropriately. They also wonder why Kia, wouldn’t just have these steering wheel locks handed out from their dealerships.
“It would seem to me that Kia is far better poised and in a good position to know who has the vehicles that are affected by this security issue,” said Michael Filicetti, the Niagara County sheriff.
James Bell, a Kia spokesperson told News 4 by phone that because these car thefts are a criminal issue, the car manufacturer believes these locks should be picked up at police departments, if enough consumers request them.
New numbers from Buffalo Police show the Kia Challenge growing in popularity in the city.
so far, there have been 253 Kia’s and Hyundai’s stolen in Buffalo this year, up from 136 this time last year and 86 in 2020.
“I think something needs to be done obviously this TikTok Challenge has gotten out of hand,” Filicetti said.
Lawsuits have been filed against Hyundai and Kia claiming there are defects in their vehicles. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says he would support a local lawsuit — or one from New York State against Kia over safety features in their vehicles.
Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.