One group of suspects may responsible for all the crimes, agency says
The Sarasota Police Department is investigating the theft of a number of vehicles, auto burglaries and attempted vehicle thefts that have occurred since July 11, the agency has announced.
The makes of the vehicles involved are Kia, Hyundai and Chevrolet, a news release points out.
“It is not yet clear if these incidents are related,” the release adds. Altogether, 16 crimes have been reported: 11 auto burglaries/attempted thefts and five reports of stolen vehicles, the release points out.
“A juvenile has been arrested in one of these incidents,” the release says.
Most of the vehicles suffered damage, the release adds, including broken windows and steering columns and damaged ignitions.
Further, the release says, “In one of these cases, a resident in the area was confronted by possible suspects and suffered minor injuries. The suspects are described as juveniles.”
“Some of these incidents involved vehicles that were left unsecured so we are again asking that residents please lock their vehicles when they are unattended,” the release stresses.
“This is an active criminal investigation, the release points out. Anyone who potentially has information about any of the cases is asked to call the Sarasota Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division at 941-263-6070, leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 941-366-TIPS, or going online at www.sarasotacrimestoppers.com.
In an earlier release, the Police Department announced that a string of burglaries involving just Kias was reported on July 17 in the area of the intersection of Sarasota Avenue and 40th Street.
“It is believed the same group of suspects is responsible for the crimes,” that news release said.
Late in the afternoon of July 18, the department issued another news release, noting that officers were investigating three more attempted thefts of Kias. These incidents occurred in the early morning hours on July 18 near the intersection of U.S. 41 and Mecca Drive in Sarasota, the release added.
In September 2022, CNBC reported, “A dangerous challenge spreading on TikTok and other social media platforms has car owners and police departments on alert across the country — challenging young teens to steal certain cars off the street using a USB cord.
“The target? Certain makes and models of 2010-2021 Kia and Hyundai vehicles that use a mechanical key, not a key fob and push-button to start the car,” the report explained. “Investigators tell CNBC the trend started last year and the number of cars being stolen is continuing to surge across the country.
“In St. Petersburg, Florida,” the article continued, “police reported more than a third of all car thefts there since mid-July are linked to the TikTok challenge. Los Angeles officials say the viral trend has led to an 85% increase in car theft of Hyundais and Kias compared with last year.
The story is the same in Chicago, according to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
“ ‘In our jurisdiction alone, [thefts of certain models are] up over 800% in the last month,’ ” he told CNBC. “ ‘We see no end in sight.’ ”
“The trend challenges teens to steal a car off the street by breaking into the car, popping off the steering wheel column and hot wiring the vehicle using a USB cable, similar to the wire used to charge a phone,” CNBC pointed out.
The Sarasota News Leader found one account that a Sarasota resident wrote on Nextdoor about a theft of a Kia, which appeared to be among the incidents that the Police Department is investigating.
The person wrote on July 18, “Stolen Car(s) Last night around 2:56am … [M]y neighbor’s car (Kia) was stolen from his driveway. His car was locked and had a tracker. No windows were broken and the tracker was disabled.”
The individual added that someone also climbed into the car that belongs to the woman who lives across the street from that neighbor. “[T]hey entered her car, turned on headlights but they didn’t steal it.” Referencing surveillance video, a clip of which he provided, the writer continued, “It was dark out and it looks to be around 6-8 thieves. You can see their shadowy figures entering the video from the left at the beginning of the video and about a [minute] later they were all over both [neighbors’] houses on the right side.”
Among the comments responding to that post, one woman wrote, “We received a notice from Hyundai to bring our vehicle to the dealership for an anti-theft recall. I hope the police locate these thieves!!”