FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — This year, Fort Wayne has had 500 cars stolen, and 86% of them have been Kias.

That’s according to Capt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena of the Fort Wayne Police Department’s southeast quadrant, who said thefts began earlier this year and have been accelerating.

Last week in the southeast quadrant, 22 vehicles were stolen, 20 of which were either a Kia or Hyundai, “but it is happening throughout the city.” Most thefts were reported by the owners and have been Kia models from 2010 to 2022, she said.

Capt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena, Southeast Quadrant

Since it’s mostly juveniles who’ve been stealing the cars, their charges are not public but there have been criminal charges, Rosales-Scatena said. So far, there have been crashes in the city, some of which have been involved in police chases, but no injuries she’s aware of.

The teens responsible for these thefts learned how to override the vehicle software through a TikTok “tutorial,” mostly by simply using a USB. The thefts have become a pastime for the younger folk who seem unaware of potential injuries of crashing a car besides the fact they are taking something that doesn’t belong to them.

“They’ve taken this and kind of run with it. It’s a nationwide epidemic,” Rosales-Scatena said.

On Sunday around 11 a.m., FWPD’s Gang Unit pursued juveniles driving a stolen Kia Soul on Paulding Road. The Kia Soul, driven by juveniles, crashed near Guildford and Drake drives after driving at speeds around 75 mph. The pursuit lasted for 15 minutes, according to information provided by the FWPD.

The four occupants of the Kia fled but were apprehended, a news release said. The unidentified officers discharged their weapons, but no one was injured.

“The problem is the joyriding becomes a criminal issue. It’s a felony to steal a car. It’s a felony to evade police in a vehicle. And the problem is innocent people are getting hurt.” In other cities, they are seeing crashes and hit skips in other cities. “It’s a matter of time before we see injury or death in either the innocent victims or the people in the cars who are stealing,” Rosales-Scatena said.

Detectives are working lists based on who’s been caught in these cars, who they know and hang out with. Many of the teen thieves know each other, she said.

“We’re really trying to focus on parents. It’s really imperative to know where your children are and who they’re with,” she said.