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Hundreds of Kia, Hyundai owners line up for anti-theft device giveaway

Prince George’s County Police are handing out 500 steering wheel locks in face of auto theft epidemic targeting the Korean car makers.

DISTRICT HEIGHTS, Md. — Dozens of Kia and Hyundai owners lined up Monday in Prince George’s County as police handed out anti-theft steering wheel locks in the face of a theft epidemic targeting the Korean-made cars.

At least 500 of the steel anti-theft devices are being handed out through the county’s eight police districts, according to police spokesperson Brian Fischer. The locks are being donated by the auto makers, Fischer added. 

Each of the county's 8 police districts will organize giveaways and announce them on the police department's Twitter feed @PGPDNews as the steering wheel locks become available, Fischer said.

Drivers lined up early at the Penn Forest Shopping Center in District Heights for a giveaway that started at 11 a.m.  Monday.

By 11:20 a.m., officers had run out of the steering wheel locks, which were donated by Kia and Hyundai.

The companies are grappling with the fallout from a security flaw that can let thieves start the cars little more than a USB cable and instructions that have been spread globally on social media.

Just one week after announcing they were “testing” anti-theft technology, Hyundai and Kia have announced that technology is now rolling out for free to millions of drivers affected by a nationwide theft epidemic ignited by social media challenges.

Both automakers are the focus of a class-action lawsuit claiming the vehicles were defective because certain models built before 2020 did not have an immobilizing device that would prevent the car from starting if keys were not near the vehicle.

Prince George’s County has emerged as a hotspot for the resulting epidemic in thefts targeting the cars.

The county reported more than 840 car thefts between January 1 and early February.

Steering wheel locks are regarded as a deterrent.   After being locked to a steering wheel, they make vehicles impossible to drive, even if the ignition is defeated by a thief.

Motorist Heather Murphy said she owned a Kia that had been stolen twice from in front of her residence.   The vehicle is still at a dealership being repaired. She said each break-in has cost her a $500 insurance deductible.

“They have to do something about this.  It’s crazy. I need one of these steering wheel locks so when I get my car back these thieves don’t take it again,” Murphy said.

Prince George's County Police say they are hopeful the technology fix announced by the companies will reduce the break ins.

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