Police say it’s part of a nationwide trend that appears to have been inspired by the social media platform TikTok.
Detectives in Fairview Park say they may have a big break in their investigation into a rash of local car thefts in recent weeks because some of the thieves were caught on video.
A surveillance camera was rolling outside the Fairview Village Apartments on Lorain Road when suspects in two SUVs pulled into the parking lot.
Investigators say the thieves were searching for Kias and Hyundais and in particular vehicles manufactured prior to November 2021 with key ignition.
Investigators say the crooks found what they were looking for, as a couple of them smashed out the window of a Hyundai, punched out the ignition and used a criminal tool to start the car.
The thieves and their accomplices in the two SUVs are then shown leaving the parking lot. They were last spotted traveling eastbound on Lorain Road.
The theft is just one in a series of similar crimes being committed across Greater Cleveland and the country.
Police said the unfortunate trend was started by a “how to” video and challenge posted on TikTok.
“Like everything else with social media, it has its positives and its negatives and no matter what forum or platform they use, people will use it to do bad things,” said Fairview Park Police Chief Paul Shepard.
Fairview Park police say three cars stolen last week were later recovered, but it appears the thieves are doing more than just going for joy rides in the Kias and Hyundais.
“Probably being used in other crimes, some of them, or they’re being used to be driven to steal other cars. Some of our cars had damage, which means they struck something. I’m sure they didn’t stick around and file an accident report,” said Chief Shepard.
Police say the manufacturers will soon be offering a kit that is designed to prevent the theft of the cars and trucks, but in the meantime, authorities are urging owners to take steps to protect their vehicles.
“What we’re encouraging our residents to do, if they have the ability, first is take all of their valuables out of the cars. Get a device like a Club or another type anti-theft device. If possible, they can also park in a secure garage,” said Chief Shepard.
So many Kias and Hyundais are being stolen that police say manufacturers are trying to provide free steering wheel Clubs, but they’re having trouble keeping up with the demand.
Authorities stress that this latest trend inspired by TikTok is not a game.
“Realize that you are committing a felony by breaking into somebody else’s property and stealing their car. And there’s a lot of risk involved when you do that both to yourself and other people,” said Chief Shepard.
Anyone who can help identify the suspects caught on video is asked to call Fairview Park Police or Crime Stoppers.