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Car thefts up, OSU police suggest steering-wheel locks

kia steering wheel
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As car thefts continue to rise in Columbus, campus police at Ohio State University are warning owners of the most vulnerable models to start using anti-theft steering wheel locks.

An increase in thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles—linked to viral videos showing how easy the models are to steal—is pushing up the total number of vehicle thefts in the city, state and nationally.

According to a community crime map, there have been about 500 reports of motor vehicle theft in the last 30 days on OSU’s campus and a five-mile radius around it. That’s a 200% increase over the same 30 days in 2017 and a 75% increase over the same time in 2021.

Columbus’ crime map shows there were 900 stolen vehicles in the city last month, double the number in the same month in 2017.

Columbus police reports show three dozen reports of motor vehicle theft or attempted motor vehicle theft on Sunday Aug. 7. Saturday and Sunday are the most common days the thefts are reported. They typically occur over night.

Campus police warn all models are at risk for theft, but Kias and Hyundais that don’t use push-button ignition are being targeted. The affected vehicles were manufactured between 2011 and 2021.

The police department said drivers should use steering wheel locks as a deterrent.

The auto company agreed to hand the devices out for free in Milwaukee when the problem surged there. They typically sell for $20 to $200.

Class action lawsuits against Kia and Hyundai have been filed in Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Texas. The suits allege the automakers didn't do enough to manufacture vehicles resistant to theft.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.