Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison: Malpractice led to increase in car theft

Jan 26, 2023, 4:20 PM | Updated: 4:21 pm
kia hyundai...
Kia exhibit (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
(Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday against car manufacturers Kia and Hyundai for lack of anti-theft technology in their vehicles.

Davison believes the companies knowingly cut corners at the expense of customers.

“As a result of this, a police force has had to tackle a huge rise in vehicle theft,” Davison said on The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “With already stretched resources. It’s risen to the level of a public nuisance. And so we are pursuing that to make sure we can get the problem fixed once and for all.”

Authorities from the Puget Sound Auto Theft Task Force (PSATTF) have previously reported that certain Hyundai and Kia models produced from 2011 to 2021 are highly vulnerable to theft.

Last December, 39 vehicles were stolen in Pierce County, according to PSATTF. Of the 39, 20 were Hyundai or Kia models.

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“Well, to give you a comparison, from July of last year, there was a 620% increase in reports of stolen Hyundais and Kias here in the city of Seattle,” Davison said. “That’s a dramatic, dramatic increase.”

For example, just 48 Kias and Hyundais were stolen in Aug. 2022, according to Davison. Four months later, 197 were stolen, including the previously mentioned 39.

This dramatic rise in thefts led Davison to believe the companies were purposely cutting corners.

“There is almost universal basic anti-theft technology that is in almost all of their cars,” Davison said. “And there are just a few models that have these manufacturers chosen to not put this anti-theft technology. And they put that technology in with the same vehicles sold in Europe and in Canada. They don’t put them in here in America.”

Davison stated her team will be reviewing the charges to determine the right amount of damages for the victims of the auto-theft spree.

“We can look at the most recent event, four teenagers stole two of these models from Ballard committing a robbery,” Davison said. “Lots of property destruction in the course of that, and then fled down to Federal Way, expending many officers in that chase for lots of hours, not just from the Seattle Police Department, but other law enforcement agencies. But for the city of Seattle, that was a significant amount of resources for our police department that’s already stretched thin.”

The thefts reached a nationwide scale when a dangerous TikTok challenge went viral when young teens would challenge each other to steal certain cars off the street using nothing but a USB cord.

The hashtag “Kia Boys,” which was used in the TikTok videos involving Kia or Hyundai theft, garnered more than 33 million views.

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For Washington state, three bills were introduced into the legislation this year regarding police pursuits, repealing the 2021 reform that limited officers to only pursue cars that are under suspicion of a major felony, including a violent offense, a sex offense, or driving under the influence.

“Do you put any blame on policies such as a vehicular pursuit ban?” Rantz asked.

“What I do know is it makes our roads unsafe,” Davison responded. “And I will agree with you that the more we can do to make our roads safer, the better. But when we have people that are in vehicles that they’ve stolen, they’re already going to take risky behavior, they’re going to make our streets unsafe, our sidewalks unsafe. That’s what we’ve seen. Oftentimes they commit other criminal acts in the process. So whatever we can do to help bolster and help assist our city’s law enforcement efforts at auto theft, that’s what I’m looking to do here.”

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Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison: Malpractice led to increase in car theft