RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Police Department is doubling down on a warning to the community after a growing trend in Kia and Hyundai thefts.

Last summer, catalytic converters were a major topic of conversation among local police, as those car parts were being stolen at what was labeled an “alarming rate.” However, this year, Captain Anthony Jackson with the Richmond Police Department said the department is worried about entire cars.

Videos showcasing how easy it is to manipulate steering columns on 2011 to 2021 Kia and Hyundai models went viral last year.

“It started about a year ago,” Jackson said. “But in the Richmond area, it’s really, really picked up over the past few months.”

Last week alone, 19 Kias and Hyundai’s were reported stolen just in Richmond Police Department’s First Precinct. That averages to more than a couple thefts a day.

Criminals are targeting vehicles with key-turn ignitions instead of “press-to-start” automatic buttons. Officers also noted that these culprits aren’t your typical “career criminals.”

“They’re generally younger,” Jackson began. “Whether they’re teenagers or young adults.”

By this time last year, 25 cars had been stolen in Richmond. So far in 2023, that total is already at 110.

Jackson emphasized the complexities associated with trying to raise awareness about the crime without drawing attention to the simplicity of the crime. It is a balance to get this information into the right hands and help Kia and Hyundai drivers protect their cars without tempting criminals.

“If they haven’t been affected by this yet, it’s a good chance that they will be affected by this in the future,” Jackson said.

Police recommend the first step these drivers take towards protection is to visit their local car dealership and request upgraded anti-theft software. Officials add that the most important step is to purchase visual deterrents like a steering wheel lock or boot.