After allegedly being inspired by a viral TikTok trend, a 14-year-old Texas teenager embarked on a crime spree, breaking into nearly 40 cars, Fox 4 Dallas reported.
The 14-year-old was apprehended on July 6 in West Plano while attempting to steal a vehicle. Upon further investigation, authorities discovered that this wasn’t his first offense, and he was linked to 38 thefts and attempted thefts.
“Some of them were attempted thefts, and some of them were actually stolen,” Jennifer Chapman of the Plano Police Department told the outlet.
Plano Police say that a viral TikTok trend where users shared tips on stealing certain Hyundai and Kia brand cars played a key role in the teenager’s offenses.
Chapman added that the number of vehicles stolen over the last year has jumped 15%.
The “Kia Challenge” has led to a surge in car theft across the country. Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images | Getty Images.
The Plano Police Department, along with Kia and Hyundai, is currently investigating the matter, but no additional details about the suspect have been disclosed, according to Fox News.
Related: These Two Cars Are Stolen So Often Insurance Won’t Cover Them
The online trend of juveniles breaking into cars — dubbed the “Kia challenge” — has emerged as a nationwide issue over the past year, where young individuals share information on car theft techniques. The original video, released in July 2022, showcases how to break into a Kia using only a screwdriver.
The challenge led to a nationwide increase of thefts of later-made models that lacked electronic immobilizers, which made them easy targets for thieves following the instructional videos on social media. Some areas, like Memphis, had nearly double the amount of car thefts in 2022 as compared to 2021, per The New York Times.
Kia and Hyundai attempted to combat these thefts by releasing software in February to deter criminals.
In May, the automakers settled a $200 million consumer class-action lawsuit related to car thefts influenced by the TikTok trend. The lawsuit accused the automakers of making cars that are vulnerable to theft.