KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knox County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday discussed the arrest of two teenagers in connection to attempted car thefts in the Karns community prompted by a social media challenge.
That social media challenge involves stealing vehicles – primarily Kia and Hyundai makes – driving them around and ditching them. The spurring of performance crimes for social media committed by younger suspects has been occurring across the nation.
An Associated Press report in May says there have been thousands of Kia and Hyundai owners whose cars were stolen and damaged in the past two years.
“The sharp uptick has been linked to viral videos, posted to TikTok and other social media platforms, teaching people how to start the cars with USB cables and exploit a security vulnerability in some models sold in the U.S. without engine immobilizers, a standard feature on most cars since the 1990s preventing the engine from starting unless the key is present,” the AP report states. “But unlike some social media-driven trends that seemingly disappear just as police get a handle on them, the car thefts have continued. Hyundai has tried to work with TikTok and other platforms to remove the videos, but as new ones surface fresh waves of thefts occur, illustrating the lingering effects of dangerous content that gains traction with teens looking for ways to go viral.”
The increase in performance crime of stealing specific car makes in cities across the country has mainly been committed by teenagers, police departments have reported. It’s been called the Kia Challenge. Some of the teens suspected of participating are known as “Kia Boys.”
Now, the trend has caught the eyes of investigators in East Tennessee due to a recent uptick.
According to KCSO, approximately 12 vehicles have been stolen – all Kia or Hyundai – since August, with another 30-40 vehicle burglaries.
Overnight Monday, Nov. 13 in the Karns community, the two teen suspects had attempted to steal three different vehicles, before firing upon responding KCSO deputies and hitting a patrol vehicle. Initially, investigators had thought the shooting did not involve the two teens, but new information unfolded in their investigation throughout Monday and Tuesday.
Two other suspects are believed to be involved in the case as well, according to KCSO, and more charges will be forthcoming.