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Cleveland councilman urges city to sue over increase in stolen Kias and Hyundais

This is one of the Hyundai vehicles that were not equipped with the anti-theft systems.
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Some Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2015 and 2021, like the one pictured above, were not equipped with the anti-theft systems.

Cleveland City Councilman Kris Harsh is urging Mayor Justin Bibb and the city’s law department to file a lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai for the damages of costs incurred for the growing surge in stolen vehicles.

From October to December 2022, the number of insured Kias and Hyundais stolen in Cuyahoga County jumped more than 233%, according to the resolution Harsh sponsored. Cleveland saw 475 thefts of the two makes of cars in December alone, according to information provided by Cleveland Police Department.

The increase in theft can be credited to a TikTok trend that shows how “easy” it is to start the vehicles without a key by using a jump drive, Harsh said. The jump drive acts in place of a key.

Kia and Hyundai failed to equip their vehicles manufactured between 2015 to 2021 with industry-standard security features, including engine immobilizers and other anti-theft systems, the resolution stated.

“This is a manufacturer's defect. When a car is this easy to steal, something has gone wrong in the design and manufacture of the vehicle itself,” Harsh said. “And what they ought to do ultimately is issue a recall, bring all of these vehicles back into the shop and retrofit them with anti-theft devices.”

Harsh represents Ward 13, which covers Old Brooklyn and the Stockyards neighborhoods on Cleveland’s southwest side.

Old Brooklyn was “leading the pack” of cars stolen a couple of months ago, he said. His own neighbors had their car stolen twice in one week.

“A sergeant from second district said that of the 800 cars stolen in Cuyahoga, 600 were from Cleveland, and 300 of those were from old Brooklyn,” Harsh said. “So, I know that our neighborhood’s been dealing with this disproportionately, for reasons that I can't quite figure out.”

Information provided from the Cleveland Police Department showed that 41% (2,255 of 5548) of thefts of 2022 and January 2023 were from the two makes and models.

Harsh said he is hoping that the law department and Mayor Bibb respond to the legislation within the next couple of days.

The increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts in the past year in the city of Cleveland.
Cleveland Police Department
The increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts in the past year in the city of Cleveland.

Harsh drafted the resolution after he was forwarded an article about a similar lawsuit that was filed last week. The city of Columbus filed a lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai for $75,000 over the costs accrued by its Division of Police to deal with the rates of vehicles stolen since January 2022, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

If the Cleveland resolution is passed, Bibb and Law Director Mark Griffin would be signing on the lawsuit for costs incurred by the city due to the theft of their vehicles, essentially damages for undue hardship, Harsh said.

“Either a class action that's happening across the country, or an individual suit based on Cleveland's needs, and that we can recover some damages for the costs incurred to the city for dealing with all these car thefts,” Harsh said.

It is up to Griffin what lawsuit will be filed, Harsh added. He’d also like to see a recall of affected models.

“The manufacturers should fix the defective columns and install proper anti-theft mechanisms,” he said.

These cars that are being stolen are not luxury vehicles and are driven by working people, Harsh said.

“These are cars driven by working people that need to get to work and they need to go to take their kids to the doctor, and they need their vehicles for very important functions,” Harsh said. “ So, when these cars are being continually stolen from the neighborhood, it's not only hurting the city in terms of the amount of police hours spent recovering the cars, but it's also literally hurting the financial bottom line of hundreds and thousands of families.”

Alexandra is originally from Northeast Ohio, but that did not stop her from exciting and new adventures. Before interning at Ideastream Public Media, she interned at The Facts in Clute, Texas, in the summer of 2021.