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Milwaukee Has A Car Theft Epidemic. The City Is Suing Car Makers, Claiming Their Cars Are Too Easy To Steal.

The city of Milwaukee is dealing with a significant increase in car theft crimes. In response, the city has filed a legal suit against Kia and Hyundai, claiming that their vehicles are easy targets for thieves. The Common Council of Milwaukee voted to pursue legal action against the car manufacturers, joining a multi-district lawsuit that targets the two corporations.

According to Milwaukee officials, the city is at the forefront of the sharp increase in car thefts. Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer said that although other cities have already filed suit against the automakers, the city of Milwaukee intends to be the first to sue them. He added that Milwaukee is ground zero and the epicenter of the problems that have been occurring throughout the country.

In 2021, Milwaukee had over ten thousand motor vehicle thefts, and over eight thousand additional thefts were recorded the following year. A report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau revealed that Milwaukee had the eighth-highest rate of motor vehicle theft of any city in the United States in 2021, and it recorded the highest increase in the previous year.

Kia and Hyundai were singled out by the city of Milwaukee because thieves frequently target their vehicles due to their lack of immobilizers. An electronic device prevents criminals from bypassing the key-starting ignition system in the cars. A trend emerged on social media in September, dubbed the “#KiaBoys challenge,” where thieves break into the cars, remove the steering wheel, and leverage hotwiring the engine with a USB cord. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the theft ring responsible for the challenge originated in Milwaukee.

The issues have escalated to the point where major auto insurers such as Progressive and State Farm do not cover Kia and Hyundai models in selected cities, including Denver and St. Louis, due to the high theft rates. Although the car manufacturers claim their cars are compliant with the federal standards, they announced software updates intended to deter thieves by requiring the key to be in the ignition socket before the car can start.

Milwaukee’s upcoming lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai will be part of a multi-district suit currently in progress in the Central District of California. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul signed a letter, along with 22 other state AGs, demanding that Kia and Hyundai install immobilizers as standard equipment.

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