MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tuesday, Memphis police again sounded the alarm, noting that stolen cars are up more than 100% compared to last year. More and more of those arrested are teenagers under 18.
"It's a pretty serious situation because a lot of the stolen vehicles that we are seeing on our roads right now are vehicles that are being used in other crimes," Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis said.
Chief Davis didn't sugarcoat her message to the Memphis City Council Tuesday. This year, stolen cars are driving the Bluff City's rise in overall crime.
"They are using those cars for things other than joyriding," Memphis Police Deputy Chief Joe Oakley said.
MPD data shows nearly 9,600 stolen cars reported so far this year. That's more than 30 cars a day on average. Hyundais and Kias make up nearly 3,200 of those stolen cars in Memphis alone.
"Be cognizant of where you park your car, be cognizant of whether you leave your car running when you run into a store and that's not just for Kias and Hyundais, that's for any kind of vehicle," Chief Davis added.
On top of that, MPD said more younger people are getting arrested for stolen cars, including 124 16-year-olds this year.
Police say gang initiation and key fob tampering in Kias and Hyundais are leading causes of that youth arrest surge.
"These are the individuals that make it very complex for us to enforce the law because we are dealing with children and it's become a trend and we just ask our public to help us with young people," Chief Davis said.
MPD is urging parents to do their part and know their children's whereabouts. That will help turn the tide of a rising trend of stolen cars locally that's showing no signs of slowing down.
"We aren't interested in arresting a bunch of children but we are interested that their lives are protected because much of what they are doing is very dangerous," Chief Davis said.
To combat the trend of stolen cars, MPD said they're working on hosting another giveaway soon of 1,000 free steering wheel locks, following a similar event held in October. Kia and Hyundai owners will get first priority for those free locks.