Local law enforcement warns against ‘Fresno Kia Boys’

Fresno County law enforcement warn that local youths are increasingly stealing Kia, Hyundai vehicles to post joyriding videos on social media

(Adobe Stock / lucky pics)
Karis Caddell
Published May 23, 2024  • 
11:00 am

FOWLER –  Local law enforcement has reported a surge in Kia and Hyundai thefts by young teens, who are exploiting a design flaw in 2012-2019 models in order to make posts on social media.

On May 8, the Fowler Police Department issued a word of caution about the “Fresno Kia Boys,” a group of juveniles who are reportedly responsible for a string of Kia and Hyundai car thieves in the region. According to the warning, the group has been traveling throughout the Central Valley stealing vehicles of those models, and within the week of the report, targeted three vehicles in Fowler.

“The thieves start by breaking a window and then ‘punch’ open the plastic housing around the ignition switch with a screwdriver. The thieves then use a USB accessory to start the vehicle,” the statement reads. “The theft takes less than a minute and it appears these are only being stolen to post videos on social media to draw attention to the Fresno Kia Boys.”

According to public information officer Tony Botti from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, the trend of stealing Kias and Hyundais for the purpose of filming a video for social media has picked up in the local region within the last six months or so.

“Many of the thieves are often only 11, 12, 13 years old.  The law does not hold children accountable like adults, so even if caught, they are released and get the opportunity to steal again,” Botti said in written statements to the Mid Valley Times.

Botti said the internet trend has hurt law enforcement and vehicle owners because the popularity of the social media trend has made stealing Kias and Hyundais exciting, making it more appealing to kids.  

“They usually only want to steal the vehicles to take for a joy ride and record video of what they have done,” Botti stated. “We usually recover these stolen cars within a short time because they are abandoned after the thieves have their fun.”

It was noted that Kia and Hyundai have a manufacturing flaw in car models that were made from 2012 to 2019, which allows someone to gain access to the inside of the ignition and use a tool to start the vehicle in a short amount of time.

Botti explained the newer models have been designed differently, incorporating engine immobilizers, and are not as susceptible to being stolen as a result.

However, 2012-19 Kia and Hyundai owners can invest in theft deterrents to keep the thieves from stealing and joy riding their car.

Botti encouraged people worried about their car to get deterrents such as an alarm, ignition kill switch, steering wheel lock and downloading the latest software update from the vehicle manufacturers.  

He stated he heard that Kia and Hyundai have also been offering vehicle owners a reimbursement if they purchased steering wheel locks, so car owners have a chance to inquire with their dealership. He continued to say car owners can park their vehicles in locked and well lit areas.  

“Park inside a garage if possible. If parking outside and you have other vehicles, block it in so that it cannot be moved without moving the vehicles parked in front or in back of it,” Botti said. 

Karis Caddell