RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fayetteville Police arrested 10 people -- nine juveniles and an adult -- following a series of vehicle thefts stretching back to last month.
Thieves have targeted 2011-2022 Hyundai and Kia models, which use traditional 'turn-key ignitions,' with police stating that offenders have exploited a software issue that allows the vehicles to be started without a key. Thieves have posted their exploits on TikTok, drawing the attention of law enforcement.
Sarah McCracken was victimized earlier this year. One night in June, she left her Raleigh apartment planning to go to the grocery store when she noticed her vehicle was missing. After searching the area, she spotted broken glass and called police.
"I filed a police report with the Raleigh Police Department, and the first thing they asked was 'Is it a Kia or a Hyundai?'" recalled McCracken, who added that her vehicle was parked in a gated complex.
The incident occurred just three days before McCracken moved.
"I had furniture, clothes, I'm a big Taylor Swift fan so my Taylor Swift bracelets from the concert were in there," McCracken said.
Her vehicle was eventually discovered in Durham, though she noted it was a total loss.
"I have no idea who took it or why they took it, but the back window was smashed. It had sat outside in torrential downpours for days. There was mildew all over the seats. They had kindly left a half-filled Wendy's Frosty cup, so it was infested with fire ants. The ignition was all ripped out. Just bumps and scratches all over the car. It was really, really bad," McCracken, who wants to raise awareness about the issue.
The Durham Police Department reported there have been 1,177 motor vehicle thefts from Jan. 1 to Aug. 12 of this year, a 168% increase compared to the same time period in 2022. Of that total, 175 vehicles have been Hyundai's, making it the most frequently stolen car in the city this year.
In May, Hyundai and Kia resolved class action litigation with affected owners, agreeing to provide approximately $200 million toward damages not covered by insurance, reimbursement for insurance deductibles, increased insurance premiums, and other theft-related losses. Vehicle owners will also receive a software upgrade at any dealership as part of a service or maintenance appointment.
Hyundai is the parent company of Kia, though the two manufacturers operate separately. The manufacturers have also donated vehicle locks, including 120 to the Durham Police Department. Durham residents can pick up a free lock from the Durham Police Department Headquarters on East Main Street, as long as they provide vehicle registration.
The Fayetteville Police Department is partnering with Hyundai and Kia for an event Saturday, Sept. 2, where owners of affected vehicles can receive a free software update designed to prevent the vehicles from being stolen using this method. It will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Manna Church Road at 5117 Cliffdale Road.
As for the 10 arrested in Fayetteville, the nine juveniles face a total of 58 charges related to the auto thefts, which date to July 8. The adult suspect, 19-year-old Ditanier Davis of Hope Mills, was charged with three counts of larceny of a motor vehicle, five counts of possession of a stolen motor, five counts of felony conspiracy, and resist, delay, obstruct an officer.
More charges are expected, Fayetteville Police said. Anyone with additional information is asked to please contact Detective Bergamine at (910) 705-2093.