Kia thefts still a problem in Madison, MPD says

According to the Madison Police Department, Kia cars manufactured from 2011 to 2021 are still being stolen as a result of an online social media trend.
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 6:50 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2023 at 6:19 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - According to the Madison Police Department, Kia cars manufactured from 2011 to 2021 are still being stolen as a result of an online social media trend that teaches people to steal them with household items.

Kendall Allen said his black Kia was stolen from his outdoor, street level parking lot on Sunday, September 9, 2023 around 11:30 p.m.

Allen said he’d recently taken his car to a local Kia dealer for a security update after seeing it had been recalled, but that the car was still broken into and stolen.

”So, I got up for work, leaving at 6 a.m. and my car was not there,” Allen said. “I didn’t know if it was towed or what had happened.”

After watching security camera footage from his apartment complex, Allen said he saw a young man ride a bicycle to his car, break the window, ride off, then walk back and drive the car away.

The keys were inside Allen’s apartment at the time of the theft.

”It’s heartless,” he said. “It pains you because I just moved here four months ago from Ohio, didn’t experience anything like that for my 22 of my life so far so, having that happen to me at my home, it hurts.”

MPD Detective Scott Reitmeier said the problem with some Kia models, is that particular keys used to start the car are similar to shapes of common household items that can also ignite the engine.

”So, that seems pretty likely in that set of circumstances really does comport with what we’ve seen before that there needs to be usually a smashed window entry into these if they’re locked,” Reitmeier said. ”It’s usually the method. It’s kind of rare that someone would pick that car to try to steal without ever knowing that Kia and Hyundai cars can be a little more susceptible to that.”

Reitmeier said the situation is still a problem, but fewer Kia cars are being stolen than compared to when the number of thefts was at an all time high in 2022.

Allen said he hoped his story would help prevent others from falling prey to another theft.

”I just don’t want other people to go through the same situation I did,” he said. “If you have a Kia, have cameras set up, wheel locks, take your own safety precautions, put an air tag in your car because if they are going to keep breaking into it at least you’ll know where it is.”

He was able to buy another car and plans to upgrade to an indoor parking lot inside a garage.

Reitmeier said wheel locks are still available at police stations in Madison and at dealerships around the city.

UPDATE: Allen was notified on Wednesday that his car had been found the day after this story was published.

According to MPD and Allen, a woman saw NBC15 News’ story about his stolen car and called the police department to report an abandoned Kia with a flat tire had been parked near her home for four days.

The car was found half a mile away from Allen’s apartment on East Washington St.

Allen said it has a flat tire, smashed window, damaged bumper and rim, but he is not sure if there is any internal issue with the ignition.

The car was found half a mile away from Allen’s apartment on East Washington St.

He was about to put a down payment on a new car on Wednesday, until MPD notified him the stolen Kia was located.

Kia America sent the following statement to NBC15 News:

“Kia continues to take action to help our customers by making it more difficult for criminals to use methods of theft recently popularized on social media to steal certain vehicle models. In addition to recently announcing an agreement that will allow customers who have been impacted by vehicle thefts to receive additional benefits, Kia has already notified all eligible owners and lessees of these vehicle models – over 3 million total – that they are able to receive the free security software upgrade that we have developed. To date, more than 730,000 vehicles nationwide have received the upgrade, which is designed to restrict the operation of the vehicle’s ignition system should a potential criminal attempt to steal a locked vehicle without the key. We have established a dedicated website where eligible owners can learn more about how to receive the free upgrade: and we are also working to promote the upgrade’s availability. As part of this, we recently hosted an off-site event to encourage eligible customers to have the upgrade installed and scheduling similar events across the country in the coming months.

We remain confident the software upgrade we developed works to combat the method of theft popularized on social media and further enhance the vehicle’s security by restricting the operation of the ignition system while the vehicle is locked and the alarm system is armed.

We also continue to provide steering wheel locks to owners of impacted vehicles that are not eligible for the software upgrade at no cost to them. Customers can obtain free, Kia-provided locks through their local law enforcement, or they can request a steering wheel lock from Kia directly through the dedicated website. To date, we have distributed more than 280,000 locks and we will continue to provide them as they are needed.

Kia has been and continues to be willing to work cooperatively with law enforcement agencies across the country to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it, and we remain committed to supporting our customers and to vehicle security.”

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