MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee police data shows the city’s stolen car epidemic centers around two vehicle brands in particular. Kias and Hyundais account for seven out of every ten cars stolen in Milwaukee this year.
Police data shows an average of 20 Hyundais or Kias are stolen each day in Milwaukee. While owners of those cars say they’re fed up, the manufacturers say their fix will only affect cars built in the future.
The biggest crime spike this year in Milwaukee is motor vehicle thefts, and it isn’t even close. Kia and Hyundai owners like Renee Anderson learned that first hand.
"We just recently moved into the neighborhood that we were living in. And we had the car parked in the front, and we heard the glass shatter, and my husband and my son went out. And they were trying to get it, a couple of young little kids, couldn't be no older than like 10 or maybe 13,” she said.
Renee says her husband stopped the thieves from taking her Hyundai, but thousands of other Milwaukee residents haven’t been as fortunate.
Data from the Milwaukee Police Department shows 2,600 Kias and 2,559 Hyundais have been reported stolen so far this year. That’s a 2,644 percent increase compared to the same time frame last year.
"It's very frustrating because it's not safe and then you've got to be very aware of where you’re parking at. And half of the time, they'll try to get it even with you standing there personally," said Renee.
Surveillance video from a Riverwest business shows a Kia being stolen in just a few minutes last week in broad daylight. The video shows a person breaking the back window while others stand watching. Minutes later, they’re seen hopping in and taking off.
"You can go inside a corner store for not even a minute, you come back out, it's gone. It’s crazy,” said Milwaukee mechanic Anthony Gonzalez.
Gonzalez says both car brands have a flaw in the ignition system that makes them easier to steal.
"These Kias, one figured it out and then now everyone wants to do it,” he said.
The problem is costing Gonzalez’s business, too. He says someone broke into a Hyundai that was sitting on his lot awaiting maintenance last week. Now, he’s left covering the damage since the incident happened on his property.
"I had a customer bring this one for a bad motor, it sat outside 24 hours,” he said. “I came back, broken window, column tried to break, and they realized the engine, it seized. You can't even start it. So they did all that, cost me money all to realize they couldn't even take it."
Hyundai Motor America admits it’s concerned about the number of its cars being stolen in the Milwaukee area.
"We are working closely with the Milwaukee Police Department and local officials to ensure the safety of our customers and deter the theft of their vehicles,” a company spokesperson said in an email.
Kia says starting in model year 2022, its vehicles will feature an ‘immobilizer’ as a standard, so the cars will not be able to start in a nontraditional manner.
Gonzalez says if you cannot park in a private garage, make sure to have a steering wheel lock or an anti-theft system installed in your car. The city of Milwaukee and several suburbs are offering steering wheel locks to owners of Hyundais or Kias for free.