Seven teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 have been charged with auto theft in Montgomery County, Maryland, according to police.
Officers were called to Livingston Street in the Glenmont Forest neighborhood around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday for the report of suspicious activity. Police said detectives, who specialized in auto theft crime enforcement, were patrolling nearby, in response to recent Hyundai and Kia theft trends, and showed up to the scene, as well.
When police got there, they said they saw a red Hyundai Sonata that was reported stolen out of D.C. leave the area at a high rate of speed. The Sonata was involved in a crash shortly after, and seven people ran away, according to police.
They were all arrested and face auto theft related charges.
Auto thefts soar
It’s the latest incident in a surge of similar crimes locally and nationwide over the past several years.
Police across the D.C. region and nationwide are sounding the alarm on a rise in carjackings and auto thefts. Vehicle thefts were up by 59% across 30 major U.S. cities from 2019 to 2022, according to a report released last month by the Council on Criminal Justice, CBS News reported.
It’s no different in the D.C. area. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, there were fewer than 100 carjackings in 2019. By 2022, the county saw an average of 10 carjackings per week.
In Montgomery County, carjackings increased by 72% in 2021 compared to 2020. Officials in D.C. said the threat of carjackings has increased since the coronavirus pandemic began. The District activated a Carjacking Task Force two years ago to address the issue.
Kias, Hyundais at heightened risk
As in Wednesday’s incident in Glenmont Forest, thieves appear to be increasingly targeting Kia and Hyundai vehicles. That’s because, over the past several months, videos posted to TikTok have demonstrated a method to more easily steal those models. Police in Northern Virginia warned in January that the viral social media trend is leading to an uptick in auto thefts.
Earlier this week, Kia and Hyundai pushed out a security upgrade to address the issue. Police believe the TikTok “challenge” has led to at least 14 crashes and eight deaths, The Associated Press reported.
The teens arrested Wednesday in Montgomery County have been released to the custody of their parents.