ROCHESTER; BRIGHTON, N.Y. (WROC) — Car thefts have been on the rise for a while now. But with the new year underway, law enforcement agencies are already expressing frustration with record-breaking numbers.
In Rochester, there’s been 217 motor vehicle thefts for 2023 so far.
In surrounding suburbs, like Brighton, officers say their number is significantly less than the city’s, but still alarmingly high compared to previous years.
“It kind of started middle of last year, so we had 58 stolen vehicles last year, which was up considerably from the year before,” said Sgt. Keith Woodard, with Brighton Police. “This year so far, we’ve had 15 stolen vehicles.” Normally that figure is somewhere between 3-5, per month.
Woodard says he’s never seen a January like this.
When we last spoke to him, he mentioned a Tik Tok trend, where kids are exposing a security flaw in both Hyundai and Kia models, allowing them to unlock and start an engine without the key.
Woodard says the trend is still putting people at risk.
“Essentially the vehicles are just being broken into, windows being broken out,” said Woodard.
Rochester Police Chief David Smith is dealing with over 200 car thefts in the month of January alone.
He said it’s an unfortunate issue, stemming partly from the manufacturers end.
“It’s a nationwide thing, ultimately the car manufacturers problem, but again, we’re here to help the citizens of Rochester who may own those cars and what can they do,” said Smith.
On Wednesday, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office reported four arrests out of Rush — all teenagers — for a stolen Kia.
So how can you stay safe?
“The old ways are the simplest ways,” said Smith. “A club on the steering wheel is one of the easiest ways to defeat something like that, I know the manufacturers have expressed interest in providing them to the owners.”
“I keep harping on it is, parents need to take responsibility for their children,” said Woodard. “Question our children when they’re not home at night, and ask, ‘why are stolen vehicles showing up in my driveway?'”
Also new on Wednesday, The City of Geneva reported several vehicles stolen. Again, Hyundai and Kia models all continue to be targets.
The Geneva Police Department is urging residents to lock their car, park in a well-lit area, remove valuables and never leave your car running.
According to RPD, officers from across the region met Wednesday morning to discuss possible solutions for the car-theft epidemic.
Officers say they’re keeping tactics confidential, so criminals can’t find loopholes.