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80 cars stolen per day across King and Pierce counties last month

Talk about the work of a Grinch, or a whole lot of Grinches, aiming to steal cars across Western Washington.

The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force says 39 cars were stolen in Pierce County this past Wednesday alone. More than half of those thefts were of Kia or Hyundai models.

Kia and Hyundai models made between 2011 and 2021 are especially vulnerable because thieves can pop off the steering column and use a simple USB cable to start them as if they were using the car's key.

"Experienced thieves and juveniles alike have learned how to start these vehicles without a key, thanks to videos circulating on social media," the task force said in a statement. "Thieves will break your window, pop off the steering column, start your car using nothing more than a USB cable, and will be gone in under a minute."

It's not a new phenomenon. Last summer, Western Washington law enforcement agencies warned of this fault that car thieves were exploiting. At the time, instructions on how to use a USB cable to steal the cars had been spreading on social media for months, and thefts of such models were rising.

The Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force is urging Kia and Hyundai owners to get GPS trackers for their vehicles, steering wheel locks, or other antitheft devices.

"While many stolen vehicles do get recovered by our task force and other police agencies, they are often found in an undriveable condition or have extensive damage and/or drug contamination. We don’t want this to happen to your vehicle, so we encourage you to take action today," the task force stated.

This week's thefts are part of an ongoing problem. In November alone, there were 862 car thefts reported in Pierce County, and there were 1,536 thefts reported in King County. The task force notes this averages to 80 stolen cars across both counties each day.

Statewide, 41,330 vehicles were stolen between January and November this year. According to a graph from the task force, this is a dramatic spike that began a couple years ago. Before that, car thefts generally numbered less than 30,000.

Stats 22 Nov Ytd 1 768x768 
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