Atlanta Police Captain Ralph Woolfolk, center, said youths are targeting Hyundais and Kias to steal. (Screen capture)

The Atlanta Police Department says young people influenced by a social media trend are driving the surge of stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles in the city.

About 60% of stolen cars in the city this year have been Hyundais and Kias, according to APD. Several investigations are underway that focus on juveniles within certain gangs in the city, said Captain Ralph Woolfolk at an April 5 press conference.

“This particular crime is driving our crime throughout the city of Atlanta,” Woolfolk said.

More than 510 Hyundais and Kias were stolen during the first three months of 2023, Woolfolk said. Last year, there were about 50 Hyundais and Kias stolen during the same time period. That is about an 830% increase, Woolfolk said.

The proliferation of young car thieves targeting Hyundais and Kias in Atlanta and the country started after some teenagers who called themselves “Kia Boyz” found easy ways to steal older-model Hyundais and Kias.

Their videos of the car thefts went viral on the TikTok social media platform.

Some of the stolen cars are used to commit other crimes and have been found at the scenes of aggravated assaults and shootings, according to APD.

Woolfolk asked families to be aware what social media their children are watching and to sign them up for city-sponsored camps and programs while they are out on spring break and as summer vacation nears.

“Parents, grab your children, turn them towards these opportunities, because if not, they are going to find themselves in handcuffs,” Woolfolk said.

Hyundai and Kia have donated anti-steering clubs to APD to give to owners of the cars being targeted. Those interested in a club can drop by their local police precinct or call (404) 799-2487.

APD is also in talks with the car companies to set up sites in the city where car owners can come get software updates that would prevent thefts.

Stealing a car is not a game to play, said Major Reginald Moorman.

“I’ve been to several homes and visited with several people who have been victimized multiple times,” Moorman said.

“They have to go back and forth to work, they have to take their children back and forth to school,” he said. “So it’s really frustrating for them to have to have to deal with this.”

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Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.