Officers of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department distribute free steering wheel locks at First Baptist Church-West, Saturday, March 11, 2023. Credit: Glenn Burkins/QCity Metro

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department will continue its efforts to curb vehicle thefts with a second giveaway of steering wheel locks.

The giveaway is scheduled for Saturday, April 29, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Walmart Supercenter at 3200 Wilkinson Boulevard in Charlotte.

To be eligible for a free steering wheel lock – 100 devices will be given away on a first-come-first-served basis – individuals must meet the following requirements:

  • Own a 2011-2021 Hyundai or Kia vehicle
  • The car must have a key lock (Push starts don’t apply)
  • Must present vehicle registration and be a Mecklenburg County resident
  • Must arrive in the vehicle you are requesting a lock for
  • Only 1 steering wheel lock per vehicle
  • This is a drive-thru event (Walk-ups will not be accepted)

A growing trend

After seeing a spike in car thefts – part of a national trend involving Hyundais and Kias – CMPD last month gave out more than 100 steering wheel locks at a similar event at First Baptist Church-West.

As of April 21, Charlotte residents had reported more than 800 car thefts involving Kia and Hyundai vehicles, a 1,747% increase from the same period last year, according to CMPD. The trend is driven largely by juveniles who steal the cars for joyrides, fueled by a social media fad known as the “Kia Challenge.”

Kia and Hyundai vehicles are said to have electrical defects that make some models especially vulnerable to car thieves. Both automakers are now offering free anti-theft software updates for owners of affected models.

Meanwhile, CMPD reminds car owners to:

  • Lock car doors.
  • Store valuables out of sight or remove them from vehicles.
  • Park in well-lit areas or areas with surveillance.

Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.

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