CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The ‘Kia Challenge’ social media trend has contributed to a major spike in auto thefts across the Charlotte area, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.

CMPD reports that auto thefts have been the largest contributor to the rise in overall crime incidents this year. On Thursday, CMPD reported a 99 percent increase in auto thefts in 2023 compared to the same time frame in 2022.

“The spike in auto thefts is traced back to a social media trend, the ‘Kia Challenge’ that originated in the summer of 2022. It gave details on how to steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles easily without needing keys,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police explained in a released statement. “In 2023, Kia and Hyundai thefts have risen by 1,747 percent. Ninety-five percent of suspects arrested for a Kia and Hyundai theft have been juveniles.”

Juveniles have also accounted for 62 percent of all auto theft arrests, CMPD said.

“Officers have recovered more than half of all stolen vehicles in 2023, and have made nearly 250 auto theft arrests, an increase of 64 percent from 2022. CMPD has held a giveaway for steering wheel “club” anti-theft devices for Kia and Hyundai vehicles with another giveaway event scheduled for April 29,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said.

Overall, CMPD reported a 6 percent decrease in violent crime from the same time frame in 2022.

“Proactive work this quarter resulted in a rise in overall arrests, up 13 percent, and firearm seizures, up 12 percent, despite facing a department and nationwide officer shortage,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said.

Other positive trends include a drop in robberies, down 5 percent, burglaries, which were down 3 percent, rapes, which were down 22 percent, and aggravated assaults, down 6 percent.

Homicides and property crime both rose through the first three months of 2023, CMPD said at 26 percent and 10 percent. CMPD said “street takeovers” have also become an alarming trend across the City of Charlotte.

“The trend involves groups of drivers shutting down intersections to perform reckless driving stunts like burnouts, drifting, and doughnuts. Since February, CMPD has made 11 arrests, issued 78 citations, and towed 34 vehicles linked to street takeover incidents,” the department said.

CMPD said they will continue to pursue every legal avenue available to hold reckless drivers accountable, including vehicle seizures.

The following statistical breakdown below provides an overall snapshot of crime (year to date) in 2023 compared to 2022:

  • Violent crimes were 1,629 compared to 1,737 in 2022.
  • Homicides were 24 compared to 19 in 2022.
  • Rapes were 56 compared to 72 in 2022.
  • Armed robberies were 308 compared to 325 in 2022.
  • Property crimes were 8,030 compared to 7,289 in 2022.
  • Residential burglaries were 404 compared to 465 in 2022.
  • Commercial burglaries were 514 compared to 480 in 2022.
  • Larcenies from automobiles were 2,306 compared to 2,232 in 2022.
  • Vehicle thefts were 1,468 compared to 738 in 2022.
  • Arsons were 30 compared to 31 in 2022.