FAIRVIEW PARK, Ohio — These days any news story prefaced with the words “TikTok Challenge” — from kicking garage doors to cooking Nyquil chicken — will invariably elicit eye rolls.
However, in recent times the video-sharing app has become a haven for instigating criminal behavior.
The latest example of an online trend having real-world ramifications involves thieves stealing Kia and Hyundai vehicles at record paces, including in Northeast Ohio.
That’s exactly what took place last week at two different Fairview Park apartment complexes.
“At 1 a.m. on Sept. 12, a group of cars loaded with people came into the city,” Fairview Park Police Chief Paul Shepard said. “They drove through two of our apartment complexes, near the intersection of Wooster and Lorain roads — The Fairview Village Apartments and 200 West Apartments — looking for Kias or Hyundais.
“When they found them, based on the TikTok videos, they smashed the back windows of the cars, broke off the ignition mechanism and then used a tool to start the cars and left. We had three cars stolen from Fairview Park and two cars broken into. All three of the stolen cars have been recovered.”
Police are investigating with evidence leading to persons of interest.
The TikTok videos show how to start both vehicle models by breaking the ignition and using a USB cord and screwdriver.
While a fix from the automakers is expected, in the meantime Kia and Hyundai owners are being asked to use old-school steering wheel clubs to thwart car thieves.
In terms of stolen vehicles in Fairview Park, year to date the police reported 12 thefts with a total of 18 last year.
“It happens everywhere,” Shepard said. “The big thing was three stolen vehicles in one night.”
Whether TikTok is social media can be debated, but its impact is pertinent regarding the current conversation about viewers through challenges being asked to break the law.
The police chief offered his opinion wrapped up in a warning to the public.
“It’s all how people use it,” Shepard said. “You can send content out but it’s how the public uses them and what was your purpose for sending the content out.
“Well-intentioned people send content out all of the time and it is used for bad things. We’re living in an age where we have to accept social media is here to stay. It’s just what the general public and people choose to do with it whether they make good or bad decisions.”
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