GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — A troubling social media trend is changing the way police handle car thefts in your neighborhood.
"There were all shards of glass all over the parking lot by my car, and then I thought "Oh, no!" And, here I saw the window was broken," said Sandy Blasky of Green Bay.
"They did enough damage that I couldn't use it," Blasky said.
Blaskey—the likely victim of a social media trend—where teens break into Kias and Hyundais in an attempt to steal them to go joyriding, is one of the 240 people who have had their vehicles broken into or stolen in Green Bay this year.
Police say 160 of those victims are Kia or Hyundai owners, which is roughly two-thirds of all car-related thefts and break-ins.
"Nationwide, this trend started coming out in about 2021. It got into Green Bay in about January of this year, and we started to see a significant increase into auto thefts," said Green Bay Police Department Patrol Captain Clint Beguhn.
"So, commonly what happens is they just bypass that system since the security on the Kias isn't very high-tech if you will, and they're not able to get the vehicle started without much tampering," said Auto Select Manager Jaramey Plager.
Plager said he's noticed a spike in people coming in to get their Kia or Hyundai repaired after someone has broken into it. He says thieves typically break in through the back of the vehicle, because it doesn't set off the alarm. After that, they break open the steering-wheel console and are able to start the car with a screwdriver or USB drive, bypassing the key altogether.
"So, this is their quarter glass on the vehicle. It's the easiest way to gain entry, and you can unlock one of the doors and get in. That's what we're seeing in regards to most of that damage goes," Plager said.
Aside from this manufacturing flaw, Plager said another issue from the automakers seems to be keeping people like Blasky from getting back on the road.
Meantime, Green Bay Police are offering some insight to keep your vehicle safe and hopefully out of the repair shop.
"So, if a thief is casing a car and checking out a car and seeing which one is the best one to take, they're going to see this and move on to the next one," asked NBC 26 Today's MacLeod Hageman about a steering-wheel club.
"Right, and one of the things to think about when you're purchasing a steering-column lock is to get something that's visible. You want something people are going to see, and they're just going to move on to the next car. They're not going to break your window, they're not going to try and jimmy your door. They're going to try and move on to the next thing," said Patrol Captain Beguhn.
Patrol Captain Beguhn initially encouraged Kia and Hyundai owners to park in a garage if they could, but both companies urged owners to park outside after issuing a recall on nearly 3 million vehicles due to a fire risk.
Mechanics like Plager said that's just another problem owners are facing.
"So, for awhile there was a problem getting these parts, and we were using used columns to get our clients back up and running, because obviously you don't want to be without your vehicle for months on end, but they've become more available, and we're able to repair them with that kit," Plager said.
"Through the year, it has spread out throughout the city—initially it was evenings and Friday and Saturday nights. Now, we're seeing it a lot more spread out and sporadic. So, it's a little bit harder for us to combat," said Patrol Captain Beguhn.
Patrol Captain Beguhn said extra patrols have helped and reports 88 people have been charged, cited or arrested in connection to auto theft this year. Nearly half of them were teens, and some of them were as young as 12 and 13 years old.
"I made a big booboo," Blasky said.
Blasky is encouraging owners to make sure their insurance is fully covered to offset the cost if something like this happens to them.
"So, I would tell somebody, "Don't do what I did." Get your full coverage, because it's not worth it," Blasky said.
As for protecting your vehicle from thieves or vandals, authorities also encourage parking your car in well-lit areas and near a surveillance or Ring doorbell camera.