North Little Rock woman falls victim to viral car theft trend

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – From the outside of Delighta Williams’ 2016 Kia Soul, it looks like a normal car, but once you open the door and go inside, it’s a different story. There’s broken glass on the seat and burns on the carpet.

“They had a field day. That’s for sure,” Williams said.

North Little Rock woman falls victim to viral car theft trend
Delighta Williams talks about her experience of falling victim to a viral car theft trend

It was Dec. 9, when Williams did her regular routine before bed.

“I just looked out the window, saw the truck and laid down,” Williams said.

How to protect your Kia, Hyundai from being stolen

Overnight someone broke through her back passenger window and damaged her steering column, but that’s not all.

“I’d say probably between 6-6:30 a.m., I got up and I looked out the window,” Williams said. “I was like where’s my truck and it was gone.”

  • North Little Rock woman falls victim to viral car theft trend
    Damaged steering column in Williams’ vehicle
  • North Little Rock woman falls victim to viral car theft trend
    Damaged steering column in Williams’ vehicle
  • North Little Rock woman falls victim to viral car theft trend
    Damaged steering column in Williams’ vehicle

Williams said while filing a report with North Little Rock police, she learned she was not the only one this had happened to recently.

According to NLRPD records, during a seven-month span in 2023, there were at least 13 reports involving Kia Souls. Six were stolen from North Little Rock, four were taken in other cities but found in North Little Rock, two had damaged steering columns but were not stolen and crooks just rummaged through another one.

“It feels ridiculous. Why would I have purchased a vehicle, worked hard, and then someone don’t want to work, wouldn’t work, want to run around and steal cars? It’s degrading.”

Delighta Williams

This is a trend that’s happening across the country because some Kia’s lack an anti-theft device. A California district court preliminarily approved a revised KIA theft settlement for more than $200 million.

“Kia continues to take significant steps to support our customers in response to criminals using methods of theft promoted and popularized on social media to steal or attempt to steal certain vehicle models,” a Kia spokesperson said in a statement.

Hyundai, Kia update security after TikTok challenge thefts

The automaker released software upgrades and hardware modifications to help prevent the thefts, but for Williams, that was too little, too late. The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office did find her car, but the damage was already done.

“The back window was damaged and the rear bumper, scratches, broken windshield wiper, interior badly stained,” Williams said.

  • North Little Rock woman falls victim to viral car theft trend
    Exterior damage to Williams’ vehicle
  • North Little Rock woman falls victim to viral car theft trend
    Exterior damage to Williams’ vehicle
  • North Little Rock woman falls victim to viral car theft trend
    Broken glass inside of Williams’ vehicle

She only has liability insurance and was unable to afford to get her steering column fixed, so now she has to use a pair of pliers to start her vehicle. Williams hopes to get it fixed eventually and then sell her car.

  • North Little Rock woman falls victim to viral car theft trend
    Delighta Williams demonstrates how she starts her vehicle after the incident
  • North Little Rock woman falls victim to viral car theft trend
    Delighta Williams demonstrates how she starts her vehicle after the incident
  • Delighta Williams demonstrates how she starts her vehicle after the incident
    Delighta Williams demonstrates how she starts her vehicle after the incident

FOX 16 News also heard reports that some insurance companies were no longer accepting new customers who drive certain Kia models.

State Farm said in a statement that the insurance agency “has stopped accepting new customer applications in some states for certain model years and trim levels of Hyundai and Kia vehicles because theft losses for these vehicles have increased dramatically. This is a serious problem impacting our customers and the entire auto insurance industry.”

Kia, Hyundai settle class-action lawsuit after a rash of thefts due to security flaw

Kia’s full statement:

“Kia continues to take significant steps to support our customers in response to criminals using methods of theft promoted and popularized on social media to steal or attempt to steal certain vehicle models.

We continue to strongly encourage eligible customers to have the software upgrade that we developed installed. The upgrade is designed to restrict the operation of the vehicle’s ignition system should a potential criminal attempt to steal a locked vehicle without the key, and we remain confident that this upgrade further enhances the vehicle’s security once it is installed. To date, we are approaching 1,000,000 vehicles nationwide that have received the upgrade. Kia continues to spread awareness about its availability through a dedicated website with detailed information at KSupport.KiaUSA.com, hosting off-site events in multiple cities in late 2023 and again in early 2024 to make it easier for eligible customers to have the upgrade installed, and partnering with Carfax to inform owners that their vehicle is eligible for the upgrade.

And in December, we released a new hardware modification—an ignition cylinder protector—designed for the vehicles that are not eligible for the security software upgrade.  The protector helps combat theft by reinforcing the ignition cylinder body and preventing its removal through brute force and is available through a free service campaign.  Affected owners have been notified and are visiting local dealers across the country to have the upgrade(s) completed.

We also continue to provide steering wheel locks to owners of impacted vehicles that are not eligible for the software upgrade at no cost to them. These free steering wheel locks further enhance the vehicle’s security and can serve as a theft-deterrent for potential car thieves. Kia customers can obtain free, Kia-provided locks through their local law enforcement or they can request a steering wheel lock from Kia directly through the dedicated website noted above. To date, we have distributed more than 335,000 locks and we will continue to provide them as they are needed. Earlier this year, we also announced an agreement that will allow customers who have been impacted by vehicle thefts to receive additional benefits and we’re confident that the individuals who have been affected will soon be able to access these benefits.

Kia is committed to continuing to work with law enforcement agencies [in] the country to combat car theft and the role social media has played in encouraging it, and we remain committed to supporting our customers and to vehicle security.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to KLRT - FOX16.com.