Jan. 11—More than 1,500 vehicles were reported stolen in Dayton last year, which was up 83% from 2021, according to police data analyzed by the Dayton Daily News. This year, Dayton police say thieves stole or tried to steal 67 cars between Jan. 2 and 8 alone.

While thieves routinely steal cars left running and unattended, police say the main cause of rising thefts has been a security flaw in many Kias and Hyundais that thieves are exploiting.

Kias made since 2011 and Hyundais made since 2015 that use physical keys can be easily hijacked. Videos circulating on social media explain how to steal these makes in a few simple steps. Other videos show people actually breaking into these vehicles and riding off with them.

Last week someone broke into Jennifer Hartman’s 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe and damaged the steering column. The intruder evidently tried steal the SUV but was unsuccessful.

Hartman, 49, lives on McClain Street in East Dayton. She said she plans to relocate some of her security cameras so they are pointed at the street and her vehicle. She said she does not know what else she can do to deter theft.

“That’s a very big security flaw, but it is what it is,” she said about her Hyundai. “My insurance covers it and I can’t undo it now.”

Police are strongly encouraging Kia and Hyundai owners to obtain and use steering wheel locks or immobilization devices to try to prevent them from being victims of this auto theft crime wave. Car owners also are warned not to leave their keys in their vehicles.

“For most people a car is either the most or second most expensive thing that they own,” said Dayton police Lt. Randy Beane. “It’s a significant impact to victims because these cars usually are not driven safely and usually (are) damaged when they are recovered.”

Vehicle thefts cost automobile owners more than $7 billion in 2020 and the U.S. averaged one every 39 seconds, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Through the third quarter of 2022, auto thefts across the nation were approaching near-record highs, according to an analysis by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Hyundai: ‘We apologize for the inconvenience’

Hartman said the break-in was a big inconvenience.

She had to take a day and a half off work and she may have to rely on a rental for weeks because the auto shop is backed up with repair orders for cars that like hers were damaged and stolen.

“With the amount of this going on, they say they can’t get started on this for two to three weeks at least,” she said.

Hartman said a friend of hers had their car stolen even though they had installed a steering wheel lock.

In 2020, about 804,000 vehicles were stolen in the U.S., more than 74% of which were passenger cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In nearly 10% of the auto thefts last year, the owner left their keys in the vehicle, the leading cause of the crime, according to WCCTV, a supplier of mobile video surveillance cameras.

That was the case in all reported car thefts in Huber Heights and Kettering since Jan. 1, police said. Kettering recorded three car thefts during that time while Huber Heights had one.

None of the four thefts occurred while the engine was running, officials said. None of the vehicles stolen in Huber Heights or Kettering were Kias or Hyundais, police said.

In a statement to the Dayton Daily News, Hyundai Motor America said it has made engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced as of November 2021.

The company says it also provides free steering wheel locks to some law enforcement agencies to distribute to local residents who lease or own their vehicles.

“We apologize for the inconvenience to affected customers,” the company said. “Owners may also bring their vehicles to a local Hyundai dealer for the purchase and installation of a customized security kit.”

Hyundai said starting in March it also plans to offer an upcoming software update at no cost to customers that should help prevent theft.

The Nation Insurance Crime Bureau said to prevent auto theft car owners should roll up their windows, lock their doors and take their keys or fobs.

The bureau also recommends parking in garages or well-lit areas, and if people must park in their driveway they should consider getting motion sensors, which is also endorsed by police.

“The best defense against having your vehicle stolen is always lock the doors and do not leave keys in or near the vehicle,” said Dayton police Lt. Beane.



—$7B: What auto thefts cost vehicle owners in 2020

—804K: Vehicles stolen in the U.S. in 2020

—209: Autos stolen every day in 2021 because the owner left the keys inside

—74: Percentage of auto thefts involving passenger cars

—39: Average number of seconds between auto thefts in the U.S. in 2020

SOURCES: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, WCCTV.


Several antitheft systems and devices are designed to make vehicles more difficult to steal or easier to trace and recover. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here are how some of them work:

—Audible and visible devices: These devices, such as a horn alarm, deter theft by bringing attention to an unauthorized attempt to steal or enter a vehicle. Visible devices create a visual threat/warning/deterrence, such as the use of steering-wheel locks, as well as theft-deterrent decals, flashing lights, and window etching.

—Immobilizing-type devices: These prevent thieves from bypassing a vehicle’s ignition system and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some incorporate computer chips in ignition keys or disable the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine.

—Vehicle recovery systems: These devices use electronic transmission technology that help law enforcement reveal the location of stolen vehicles-and possibly catch the thief in the act.

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