Milwaukee Has A Car Theft Epidemic. The City Is Suing Car Makers, Claiming Their Cars Are Too Easy To Steal.
06 March 2019, Switzerland, Genf: A Kia logo, taken on the second press day. The 89th Geneva Motor Show starts on 7 March and lasts until 17 March. Photo: Uli Deck/dpa (Photo by Uli Deck/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Photo: Uli Deck/dpa Photo by Uli Deck/picture alliance via Getty Images

The city of Milwaukee is in the midst of a car theft epidemic, but instead of criminals, the city is targeting the car makers.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted Tuesday to approve a resolution to seek outside counsel to pursue a lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai. The city will join a multi-district lawsuit being heard against the two automakers, claiming that their cars are too easy to steal. Milwaukee officials called the city “ground zero” for the car thefts.

“It is my hope that not only do we curb the thefts but that the City of Milwaukee recovers some of the damages for police, fire, [Department of Public Works] and any other costs that we’ve had to incur as a result of the negligence of Kia and Hyundai,” Milwaukee alderwoman Milele Coggs said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer said the city intended to be the first city to sue the automakers, but would still proceed with its case even though other cities have already filed suit. “In my estimation, all the [car theft] problems have emanated out of Milwaukee,” said Spencer. “This is ground zero, the epicenter of the cause of the problems that we’ve been experiencing throughout the country.”

According to crime data from the Milwaukee Police Department, there were 10,487 motor vehicle thefts in 2021, and 8,097 more in 2022. A report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, cited by the Common Council in a statement, found that Milwaukee had the 8th highest rate of motor vehicle theft of any city in the United States in 2021, and the highest increase from 2020-2021 of any city. In the year 2023 to date, there have been 1,323 car thefts.

Thefts have particularly risen for certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles, because they lack immobilizers, an electronic device that prevent criminals from bypassing the key-start ignition in the cars. A trend emerged on TikTok in September challenging criminals to steal a car by breaking into it, taking off the steering wheel, and hotwiring the engine with a USB cord, CNBC reported. The hashtag “#KiaBoys” was viewed more than 33 million times at the time. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel further reported that the “Kia Boys” theft ring originated in Milwaukee.

According to a report from CNN, the problem has reportedly gotten so bad that major auto insurers Progressive and State Farm have stopped covering Kia and Hyundai models in certain cities, including Denver and St. Louis, because of the high rates of theft. Kia and Hyundai have previously stated that their cars are in compliance with federal standards; they also announced software updates intended to deter thieves by requiring the key to be in the ignition socket before the car can turn on.


According to the Journal Sentinel, the city’s lawsuit will be part of a multi-district suit that is being adjudicated in the federal Central District of California. Earlier this month, the city of Madison voted to hire outside counsel to sue the two automakers. Other cities suing Kia and Hyundai include San DiegoSeattle, and Cleveland.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul signed a letter along with 22 other state AGs demanding that Kia and Hyundai equip immobilizers as standard equipment.

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