CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Several cities and towns have seen an increase in people breaking into cars over the last year.

Law enforcement officials say that this could be due to a viral social media trend. There are circulating videos on TikTok exploiting the vulnerabilities of anti-theft software, specifically on some Kia and Hyundai models.

Vehicles that don’t have a push-button start and don’t have a built-in immobilizer make them easy to steal. An immobilizer is an electronic security device that prevents the engine from being started unless the correct key is present. This device stops car thieves from starting the vehicle using a technique known as ‘hot wiring.’

Chicopee Police Spokesperson Travis Odiorne told 22News that they’ve responded to five car break-ins within a two-week period, “We have had an increase in thefts in Hyundais and Kias. So people are breaking in, they’ve stolen a lot with the viral challenge that’s been out there, that shows pretty easily how you can do that.”

Brian Houser of Balise Hyundai in Springfield says car thieves are targeting models between 2015 to 2021 that have turn keys and not a push-to-start mechanism with a built-in immobilizer, “They are breaking the whole entire console in order to get into the ignition and they are using screwdrivers, they are using USBs to try to turn the ignition. So as far as vehicles, if it’s a push button it has an immobilizer that needs to engage the computer and start the vehicle. They are bypassing that system to start the vehicle.”

The good news is there is a way to prevent these thieves from targeting your cars. Hyundai and Kia dealers across the United States and here in the Pioneer Valley have been running the 993 campaign which serves to enhance vehicle theft protection.

“The 993 campaign is working fantastic. It allows people to come into our service department to get their vehicles fixed they just have to remember to lock their vehicles. That’s how the system engages, that way they don’t have to worry about their cars ever being stolen again,” said Houser.

“Of the Kias and Hyundais in our market, we’ve installed about 48.2 percent to be exact, about 1,600 of these have the immobilizers installed in them,” said Gary Rome, owner of Gary Rome Hyundai Holyoke.

Gary Rome and Brian Houser emphasized the importance of getting cars that have been recalled into the dealership as soon as possible to deter thieves from targeting your vehicle. Both dealerships said that those looking for added protection and a little peace of mind can request a wheel lock or a club for their vehicles.

Local News

Melissa Torres is a reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2021. Follow Melissa on X @melissatorrestv and view her bio to see more of her work.