TikTok challenge driving up car thefts in Raleigh

Jamiese Price Image
Friday, May 12, 2023
Stolen cars Raleigh
EMBED <>More Videos

Stolen cars Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- There's been a surge of car thefts in Raleigh and victims are turning to social media to find their vehicles, including Laura Gabrieli. "I felt violated," said Gabrieli.

Her car was stolen on Monday in front of her home near Crabtree Valley Mall. "I see that the car is not there and I'm just like, you know, shocked. I walk back in the house and asked my husband, did you did you move the car? You know, this is our spot. So we called the police," she continued.

Raleigh Police are getting more of these calls lately. There's been a 26% increase in car thefts for the first quarter of the year. 74 of the 386 cars reported stolen this year were Kia's and Hyundai's.

Gabrieli owned a 2020 Kia Sportage that she said her parents paid for. "They saved money a whole year like to put away to get to get me in the car."

Inside her car were irreplaceable puppets, a tool she used to help teach her students at Dynamic Opportunities who have special needs. When her car was found Wednesday most of the puppets were gone. "When the car was found in Durham, and it was wrecked completely. It had several holes in it. And it's really sad. The thing is, not having those puppets. These are my tools that I help these kids. We have a team here that I teach kids who are autistic young adults who are not easily getting jobs in the community," explained Gabrieli.

Gabrieli believes she was a victim of the viral "Kia Boyz TikTok challenge" sweeping the country. Certain models of Hyundai and Kia vehicles lack safety features that make the cars easier to steal. Thieves are targeting models from 2011 through 2022.

Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson highlighted the problem Thursday. "As you may be aware, there is a nationwide surge in thefts and certain models of Kias and Hyundai vehicles that are not equipped with anti-theft immobilizers, and in the first quarter, we experienced 74 of those thefts. That was 19 of the overall motor theft," explained Patterson .

The car manufacturers recently announced a free anti-theft software upgrade to help prevent thefts. But a quick call to a local dealership alerted ABC11 to a new struggle. There's a shortage of the supplies needed to upgrade the software.

Meanwhile, people like Gabrieli and the children she teaches are left to deal with a major setback.

ABC11 is tracking crime and safety across Raleigh and in your neighborhood

"It's not just a car. It's somebody's life. It's not about me. It's giving kids with autism, and teens with autism, a chance to have a better self-esteem," continued Gabrieli.