‘Kia challenge’ still active, North Carolina police warn after stolen Wake County SUV is used in gun theft ring

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Police in North Carolina are warning drivers of certain cars after a group of gun-thieving youths appeared to follow a “Kia challenge” video to steal a Kia and use it in various gun thefts.

Butner Public Safety first reported about the Wednesday arrest of several juveniles who broke into cars to steal guns.

The youths were caught with nine guns — some were illegal automatic/altered — after various thefts from cars on 20th Street, according to Butner officials. Five of the guns were stolen from North Carolina towns or cities.

But, the key clue that led to the guns and arrests was a Kia that had been driven to several car break-ins.

Photo of the actual Kia stolen from Wake County that was used in the theft of guns from cars, police said. Photo courtesy: Butner Public Safety

That Kia was stolen from Wake County and was later found on West C Street in Butner, police said. A search warrant of the stolen Kia and home where it was parked led to the gun-theft ring and the arrests, police said.

Now, police are warning about the continuing theft problems involving certain Kia and Hyundai models that use a traditional key for the ignition.

5 juveniles charged after guns stolen in car break-ins seized in Butner, police say

“The photos attached to this post are the actual photos of the steering column that is easily defeated,” a Butner Public Safety news release said.

The guns — some stolen and some illegally modified — that were seized as several juveniles were arrested in Butner last week. Photos courtesy: Butner Public Safety

A viral TikTok video, initially called the “Kia Boyz challenge” or “Kia challenge” shows how to hot-wire Kia and Hyundai cars with a USB cord and a screwdriver.

In the first quarter of 2023, Raleigh police said 19 percent of all car thefts were via the TikTok challenge method.

Most Fayetteville car thefts linked to TikTok challenge, police say

According to Fayetteville Police data, car theft jumped nearly 28 percent last year. The number of stolen cars went from 544 in 2022 to nearly 700 last year — at 695.

“The majority of the car thefts that we have seen over the past couple of years were related to this trend,” Fayetteville Police Capt. Diana Holloway said about the USB trick.

Photo of the actual Kia stolen from Wake County that was used in the theft of guns from cars, police said. Photo courtesy: Butner Public Safety

In Durham, for example, Hyundai cars were the top choice of thieves in nearly 1,200 car thefts in 2023, police said in August of last year.

In the Charlotte area, 80 percent of all stolen cars in 2022 were Kia or Hyundai models, according to North Carolina officials.

Viral TikTok challenge blamed for dozens of Hyundai, Kia thefts in Raleigh

After the arrests last week of the Butner juveniles, Butner Public Safety posted photos of the actual Kia that was stolen. Butner officials reminded owners of the cars that free steering wheel locks are provided for Granville County residents who own a 2011 to 2021 Kia or Hyundai

The spike in Kia and Hyundai thefts is linked to the “Kia Boyz challenge,” a method of theft popularized on social media.

As of October 2022, there were more than 3 million TikTok videos with the hashtag “Kia Boyz.” Many of them are videos of people attempting to, or in some cases, successfully stealing a Kia or a Hyundai.

“Granville County residents who own a 2011 to 2021 Kia or Hyundai,” Butner officials said.

A class-action lawsuit filed in September in Orange County, California, alleges that Kias built between 2011 and 2021 as well as Hyundais built from 2015 to 2021 lack anti-theft parts called engine immobilizers, making the cars easier to steal than other models.

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