DC offers free steering wheel locks after 'social media challenge' causes uptick in car thefts

Officials in D.C. are giving out free steering wheel locks to help Kia and Hyundai owners who are concerned over the recent rise in thefts of these types of cars using a USB cable.

On Thursday, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) announced that D.C. residents who own a 2011-2021 Kia or Hyundai vehicle are eligible to receive a free steering wheel lock from an MPD District station starting on Friday.

READ MORE: 3 teens arrested for Kia theft: police

The decision to give out free wheel locks comes amid a rise in thefts across the D.C. region inspired by a social media challenge that showed potential thieves how to steal the cars using a USB cable. Mutiple neighboring jurisdictions in the D.C. region, have also handed out free steering wheel locks.

"Car theft is a serious problem – it is incredibly stressful and often costly and time-consuming for the victims, and it is dangerous to have these stolen cars on the road," said Mayor Bowser. "I encourage all DC residents who own a 2011-2021 Kia or Hyundai to pick up their free steering wheel locks as soon as possible from a District station to prevent theft. As MPD and our public safety partners work together to prevent car theft and hold accountable those who are stealing cars in our city, this is one way we can work together to proactively prevent crime."

"We are seeing that many of the vehicles stolen in the District are later being used to commit acts of violent crime in our city," said Chief Contee. "This is unacceptable. The Metropolitan Police Department’s top priority is to ensure that every resident and visitor of this city is safe from becoming a victim of a crime."

READ MORE: Major insurers plan to drop two car models' coverage due to thefts: report

The steering wheel locks will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis as long as supplies last.

To qualify D.C. residents must show proof that they have a 2011-2021 Hyundai or Kia vehicle, a steel key ignition (keyless entry/push-to-start vehicles are not impacted), a D.C. registration, and a D.C. ID.

Wheel locks can be picked up at one of the following MPD District stations:

  • First District: 101 M Street SW
  • Second District: 3320 Idaho Avenue NW
  • Third District: 1620 V Street NW
  • Fourth District: 6001 Georgia Avenue NW
  • Fifth District: 1805 Bladensburg Road NE
  • Sixth District: 5002 Hayes Street NE
  • Seventh District: 2455 Alabama Ave SE

READ MORE: Free steering wheel locks for some Hyundai owners in Prince William County

Click here to check the remaining stock of steering wheel locks at your local MPD district station.

According to MPD, since the social media trend of stealing Kia and Hyundai cars went public in the summer of 2022, police have seen a big jump in these types of cars being stolen. MPD data shows that in January 2022, there were 25 total reported incidents of thefts involving these vehicles, but by December that number had jumped to 150 reported incidents. The data also showed that motor vehicle thefts jumped eight percent from 2021 to 2022.

READ MORE: PG County distributed hundreds of anti-theft devices to Kia and Hyundai owners

In addition to using steering wheel locks, MPD is encouraging drivers to practice the following safety tips:

  • Never leave your engine running or leave your vehicle unattended.
  • Turn off your vehicle and take your key fob with you.
  • Lock your car. 
  • Take your keys with you.
  • Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Park in a well-light area or parking garage.
  • Remove USB cables from your vehicle while it is not in use.
  • Consider purchasing an anti-theft device.
  • Contact your local dealership for software updates.
  • Call 911 for assistance from the Metropolitan Police Department if you see or suspect something out of the ordinary.