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HomeTechU.S. City Fights TikTok-Fueled Auto Thefts with Free AirTags

U.S. City Fights TikTok-Fueled Auto Thefts with Free AirTags

In a bid to tackle the rise in auto thefts, one major U.S. city is adopting a tech-savvy approach that involves distributing 500 free Apple AirTags to its residents. Officials suggest that a social media trend could be contributing to the alarming increase in car thefts.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the initiative, stating that AirTags serve as excellent tracking devices. When hidden in a vehicle, they allow owners to monitor their car’s location in real time. NYC has experienced a 13% year-over-year increase in car thefts, with nearly 4,500 incidents reported through April 23.

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell cited viral social media videos from last year as a possible culprit. These videos demonstrated how easily certain Kia and Hyundai models could be stolen, fueling the trend.

TikTok’s Unfortunate Impact The situation in New York and across the country has been exacerbated by a TikTok trend that began in 2021. This trend involves users demonstrating how to hotwire cars and challenging others to do the same.

Most Kia and Hyundai vehicles manufactured between 2015 and 2019 lack a standard electronic immobilizer, which prevents thieves from bypassing a car’s ignition. According to the IIHS, while immobilizers were standard on 62% of cars made by other manufacturers in 2000 and 96% in 2015, they were only standard on 26% of vehicles produced by Kia and Hyundai.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta spearheaded a coalition of 18 states in calling for a federal recall of Hyundai and Kia cars, given their increased vulnerability to theft. As authorities leverage technology to counter the rise in auto thefts, they also highlight the importance of being cautious with information shared on social media platforms.