Marijuana, a glass of beer, an unopened box of condoms and a steering wheel lock all sit on the floor of the passenger seat of Doug Lindquist’s red 2019 Hyundai Elantra.
Pieces of cheddar Chex Mix sit in the collection of blue glass scattered on the backseat. Sunlight streams through the smashed back window.
Renton police confiscated a majority of the drug paraphernalia after discovering and processing the vehicle on March 14, four days after the Lindquist initially reported the Hyundai missing.
Chandra Lindquist, Doug Lindquist’s mom, laughs out loud.
“They stole and ate your Chex Mix?” she said.
“Yeah,” Doug said.
The ripped plastic and metal on the vehicle’s left front bumper and fender indicate the Chex Mix thieves also crashed the Hyundai.
Doug Lindquist sits down in the driver’s seat — quarter panel creaking as he steps in — to try to see whether the vehicle will still start. He finds the steering column cover missing and damage to his ignition lock.
The features are characteristic to vehicles that fall victim to the “#kiachallenge” sweeping the nation.
In a February news release, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributed at least eight fatalities and 14 reported crashes to the viral social media challenge — and a sharp increase of motor vehicle thefts targeting vulnerable Kia and Hyundai models.
Viral videos showcase methods to hot-wire the vehicles with “tools no more advanced than a USB cable,” according to a news release from the City of Seattle.
As of March 15, the Renton Police Department has recorded 370 cases of motor vehicle theft in 2023. Out of the 370 cases, 180 involved Hyundai and Kia vehicles — making up approximately 49% of motor vehicle thefts in Renton.
In response to the increasing rates of theft, Hyundai and Kia provided the Renton Police Department with a limited supply of steering wheel locks for owners of older key ignition Hyundais and Kias.
Prior to the Renton Police Department’s efforts, the Lindquists had purchased a steering wheel lock for the Hyundai Elantra after learning of the viral challenge.
On Saturday morning, March 11, Doug Lindquist left his house to find his Hyundai missing and broken glass on the street. Two days previously, Doug and Chandra had received a letter from Hyundai announcing a service update for the Hyundai Elantra to “improve alarm system operation and ignition start logic,” requesting they call a dealership to receive the upgrade at no charge.
The Lindquists will have to partially cover the costs of damages to the vehicle and towing.
“Now we’re gonna have to pay … so that some kids could go out, say they did the TikTok challenge and … take a joyride and get high in our car,” Chandra Lindquist said.
Renton vehicle thefts
• On March 8, a stolen 2019 Kia Forte speeding north down Rainier Avenue North in Renton collided at an intersection with a westbound vehicle on Airport Way. Medical staff transported four of the five juvenile passengers of the stolen Kia to Harborview Medical Center with critical injuries, intubating one at the scene. After receiving medical clearance from Valley Medical Center for serious injuries, Renton police booked the 18-year-old driver into the King County Jail on felony charges, including two counts of vehicular assault and five counts of reckless endangerment.
• According to crime statistics data from the Renton Police Department, the number of department case reports regarding motor vehicle theft in Renton increased approximately 68.5% in January 2023 in comparison to January 2022. Out of the 182 cases of motor vehicle theft in Renton in the month of January, at least 97 cases involved Hyundai and Kia vehicles, according to the department.
• According to crime statistics from the Renton Police Department, the annual number of case reports on motor vehicle thefts have jumped 65% from 2020 to 2022.
• From 2020 to 2021, the department filed 721 case reports on motor vehicle thefts. The next year, they filed 901 case reports — a 25% increase. In 2022, there were 1,193 case reports — a 32% increase.