It’s all the cars’ fault! Progressive Seattle lawmaker who’s pro-defund the police and once condoned looting demands recall of Kias and Hyundais to tackle soaring vehicle theft in city – but refuses to concede soft-on-crime policies are to blame
A Seattle councilman who has backed calls to defund the police has a new idea to reduce car thefts — ban the cars.
Tammy Morales is among a group of progressive lawmakers from Democratic cities who have blamed automakers Kia and Hyundai for the rising rate of car crime, demanding they make their products harder to steal.
The Washington state capital launched a lawsuit against the makers last year after videos of car thefts appeared on TikTok, and is calling on federal regulators to enforce a nationwide recall.
But the socialist leader had little to say about the city’s soft-on-crime policy, which has seen car theft more than double in the past five years.
“I won’t talk about the motivations of young people except to say that they are young people and when a challenge is issued, especially on something like social media, they like to take it up,” she said .
Seattle Socialist Councilwoman Tammy Morales has called for a complete recall of Kia and Hyundai models as the city faces a doubling in car thefts
Teenage vandals known as the ‘Kia Boys’ gained a following on TikTok after video tutorials showed viewers how to bypass the cars’ security systems
But the cars are increasingly being used as mobile battering rams by thieves targeting shops
The Seattle Police Department has lost about 600 police officers since the City Council began defunding the department in 2020.
In that time, car thefts jumped from less than 4,000 to the record 8,379 recorded last year.
The funding cuts began with the riots that swept across the city in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis by a white police officer, riots that Morales was accused of defending.
“What I don’t want to hear is for our voters to be told to be civil, not to be reactionary, to be told that looting doesn’t solve anything,” she said at a council meeting at the time.
‘It makes me wonder why looting bothers people so much more than knowing that black people are being killed across the country.’
Thefts from the two car brands began to increase the following year after online tutorials on how to bypass their security features went viral.
TikTok videos then showed cars being stolen and driven randomly by joyriders through major Midwest cities like Milwaukee, Chicago and Columbus.
The vandals behind the viral carjackings, some of whom were as young as 12, branded themselves ‘Kia Boys’.
The car thefts were sparked by a Tik Tok trend in which users showed how to steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles that lack basic security features.
Four teenagers are dead after a Kia Sportage they allegedly stole crashed (pictured) in Buffalo, New York
The cars are often used as getaway vehicles, but sometimes suffer so much damage that they are left at the scene of the raid
Self-proclaimed ‘Kia Boyz’ Ralphe Manuma (left) and Ardrell Davis, both 18, were charged with robbery and vehicle offenses in December after they used a stolen Hyundai to target gas stations in the Seattle suburb of Eastgate.
Thefts from Kias increased 363 percent in 2021 alone, according to the Seattle Police Department, while thefts from Hyundais increased a whopping 503 percent
Tammy Morales backed the police measures on the Seattle City Council, where salaries average $218,000 — again half as much as the statewide figure
Councilor Morales: ‘I haven’t heard of these stolen cars being used for smash-and-grabs’
The trend changed nationally and in 2022, four teenagers, including a 14-year-old mother, died after a stolen Kia Sportage crashed in Buffalo, New York.
Two self-proclaimed Kia Boyz were charged with robbery and vehicle crimes in December after they used a stolen Hyundai to target gas stations in the Seattle suburb of Eastgate.
Ralphe Manuma and Ardrell Davis, both 18, are believed to have targeted six garages in the space of one night in September.
In one attack, the two held an employee at gunpoint and made him open a cash register.
When he could not open for a second, one of the suspects hit the employee in the back of the head with a pistol. King5.com reported.
Between 2011 and 2021, nearly 10 million Kia and Hyundai cars sold in the US were not equipped with immobilizers and could therefore be started easily and primitively with just a flat-head screwdriver and a USB cable.
The two manufacturers settled a $200 million lawsuit filed by owners last May, promising to install new security software on 8.3 million existing cars while drivers pay up to $300 for steering wheel locks and other theft-prevention devices.
But that hasn’t stopped Council members Against Car Thefts, from Baltimore, New York, Seattle, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Austin, from demanding a total repeal.
‘The issue resonates beyond just an inconvenience; it traumatizes our communities,’ said Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen ComoNews.
“The failure of Kia and Hyundai to install industry standard theft prevention technology on their vehicles has left our cities to clean up the mess.”
In a statement to DailyMail.com earlier this month, a Hyundai spokesperson said the company is taking measures to mitigate theft, including making immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced from November 2021.
“Thieves discovered a specific method to bypass the vehicles’ security features and then documented and promoted their exploits on TikTok and other social media channels,” they said.
Thefts from Kias increased 363 percent in 2021 alone, according to the Seattle Police Department, while thefts from Hyundais rose a whopping 503 percent.
And they have increasingly been used as disposable mobile battering rams for a wave of thieves targeting shops in the coastal city.
“I haven’t heard of these stolen cars being used for smash-and-grabs,” Councilman Morales said.
‘The resolution and the lawsuit are really about corporate responsibility.
‘It’s young people who can get into these cars very easily and steal them.’
The Democrats hold all nine seats on Seattle’s City Council where salaries average $218,000 – again half as much as the statewide figure.
Morales, who was previously the city’s human rights commissioner, is the longest-serving member elected in 2019.
But her latest comments have not gone down well with residents in a city plagued by homeless drug users and suffering its highest homicide rate in 30 years.
‘How about we focus on arresting the thieves and sending them to jail? KIA can worry about their own car issues,’ tweeted one on X.
‘Using taxpayer dollars to sue a car company for damage done by criminals and doing nothing to the criminals because it’s corporate greed that causes teenagers to steal cars? Is that right?’ asked another.
“Morales is an enabler of all car thieves and does not care about the victims,” wrote a third.
‘She wants to punish Kia/Hyundai, not the actual thieves. She is a disgrace.’