21INVESTIGATES: What are Fort Wayne police doing about the rise in car thefts?

Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 7:31 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Fort Wayne Police Department crime statistics say 500 cars have been stolen so far this year. What are police doing about it? How you can you protect yourself?

Our 21Investigates team is looking into the numbers. Just this month, 83% more cars were stolen in Fort Wayne last month compared to the same time last year. This data does not include which kinds of cars are stolen most often.

Fort Wayne police Captain Sofia Rosales-Scatena says she’s been trying to find a solution to this major problem in our city right now. She oversees the southeast side of Fort Wayne and she says 22 cars were stolen there alone last week. She says 20 of those cars were Kias or Hyundais.

21Investigates sat down with Rosales-Scatena to understand more about how FWPD is responding to these car thefts. She says it’s difficult to tackle the problem because of how easy Kia and Hyundai cars are stolen. A viral Tik Tok trend sparked the problem giving a tutorial on how to steal a car with just a USB.

“We are always doing what we can to stop crime,” she said. “It’s not just the southeast side, it’s happening all over the city, cars are being taken everywhere.”

Rosales-Scatena says, most of the time, teens are stealing the Kia and Hyundai cars, taking them on a joy ride and then abandoning them. She says some of the teens aren’t even of driving age yet. More than anything, she says she’s worried about someone getting hurt or even killed. She recommends parents pay close attention to what their teen is doing right now. She says a car can be replaced, but a life cannot.

“T his fun is potentially dangerous and deadly, not only for them but people on the street.”

In 2023, cities such as Seattle, Baltimore, Cleveland, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Columbus have all sued Kia and Hyundai. The lawsuits claim their parent company has been selling cars without proper anti-theft technology. Indianapolis has also joined in on a national lawsuit against the company.

Should Fort Wayne file a lawsuit against the car manufacturers?

Rosales-Scatena says she would support that action if it would put an end to all of the stealing.

“If it would stop this kind of easy theft, I would support it,” she said. “I don’t know if a lawsuit will help but it would fund the resources we’ve been using.”

DETAILS: Cities across the country are suing Kia and Hyundai, will Fort Wayne join in?

So what should you do if you own a Kia or Hyundai?

She says the most effective option the police department has is to buy what’s called a steering wheel lock - known as The Club.

Rosales-Scatena says some of these teens are repeat-offenders and they are aware of who some of them are, but they still need help. If you have any information about these car thefts, please call police.