NYPD’s answer to TikTok car theft challenges: 500 free AirTags

The New York Police Department is turning to Apple AirTags to combat a rise in stolen vehicles it blames on a TikTok car theft challenge. In a press conference on Sunday, NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city is handing out 500 free AirTags to help residents track their cars in case they’ve been stolen.

Mayor Adams said there’s a direct link between the increase in car thefts in the city and the viral TikTok videos from thieves known as the “Kia Boyz” that first emerged last summer. In clips posted to the platform, the pair taught users how to exploit a Hyundai and Kia defect by letting them start a car using a USB cable and other readily available tools.

“You will see the spike that we are experiencing now is a large part of what’s happening on social media,” Adams said. According to John Chell, NYPD chief of patrol, the city has already seen 966 stolen Hyundais and Kias this year so far, marking an increase of 819 from all of 2022. Meanwhile, 4,500 vehicles have been reported stolen overall.

Apple’s AirTags are typically used to track things like a purse, wallet, suitcase, or set of keys in real time, but they also come in handy when helping people track down their stolen cars. Although the city is encouraging residents to hide the AirTags inside their cars to make them more difficult for a thief to find, an AirTag safety feature may alert a thief of its presence anyway.

The NYPD won’t have access to the real-time location of the AirTags that it’s giving away. Mayor Adams notes that people will have to notify the police department that their vehicle has been stolen and then give the authorities permission to track their vehicle. The city is only distributing the AirTags, which it received as a donation from the nonprofit Association for a Better New York, to residents in Castle Hill, Soundview, and Parkchester, who can call their local precinct to get one, according to CBS News.

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