As the TikTok Kia challenge continues to increase car thefts and leave residents to pick up the costs, Baltimore legislator Zeke Cohen introduces a resolution for an investigative hearing. Cohen hopes the hearing will bring agencies together to figure out what the city and state can do to relieve the issue. (Photo Courtesy of Councilman Zeke Cohen (D-District1))

By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

Councilmember Zeke Cohen (D-District 1) pushes for an investigative car theft resolution due to a major rise in car thefts across the city and the nation.

“The main objective is to bring together all of the different parties concerned and have an interest in solving this really major challenge for our city,” said Cohen. “As of October 19, there were 225 Auto deaths in Baltimore. That is approximately 27 per day, representing a 225 percent increase over last year.”

The resolution calls on the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety, the Baltimore City Police Department, the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office, the Office of the Maryland Attorney General, the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration and the Maryland Juvenile Services.

“It is both a quality of life issue and a public safety issue and in some cases, it escalates and it can become very violent, such as when a gentleman was carjacked a couple of months ago over in Canton and his uncle, Darrell Benner, came out and confronted the carjackers and they shot and killed him,” said Cohen.

A Northeast Baltimore resident shared how the increase in car thefts has impacted him.

“My car insurance rates skyrocketed because of people who are not supposed to be behind these cars, stealing,” said Mitchell Dean Sr., 56. “I’m paying almost an additional $2,000 more this year for auto insurance [even though] I have a good driving record – and good credit.”

Several Kia and Hyundai car models caused an increase in car thefts. Since 2022, a viral TikTok challenge has revealed the flaws within the manufacturers’ systems when teens began to steel cars with a USB cord. 

According to the Council on Criminal Justice, there were 33.5 percent more vehicle thefts from January to June this year than in the first six months of 2022 in the U.S.

Cohen said he plans to invite representatives from Kia and Hyundai to the investigative hearing.

“I think that Kia and Hyundai have absolutely contributed to what we’re experiencing in Baltimore and many places, and so they should be part of the solution,” said Cohen.

Kia and Hyundai have worked with law enforcement agencies and given out free wheel locks and software updates to those impacted by the security defect, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

The resolution is now in the hands of the Public Safety and Government Operations Committee.