Dealership develops tech fix to stop would-be car thieves

By Caroline Hecker

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ST. LOUIS, Missouri (KMOV) — An average of 27 cars have been stolen every day in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County combined since early 2022. Now a local car dealership is trying to be part of the solution.

Elliot Silk, Service Director for Suntrup Kia and Hyundai, worked with several of his technicians to find a solution to the problem.

“Probably about 8 months ago it started accelerating and then of course clients would call me all the time and be like, ‘What are you going to do about it?'” Silk said. “Well nobody did anything, so my boys and I thought about it and we took it upon ourselves to find a solution.”

Silk said he’s spent the last three months developing a Bluetooth breaker that prevents the ignition from turning without pressing a button on a Bluetooth keychain. Installation costs $200.

“When you put the key in, turn the key and push the start button and it starts right away,” he said. “You can pull the key out and put it back in, and no matter how many times you try, the car won’t start until you press the button on the Bluetooth device.”

Earlier this year, Silk said the Kia dealership had more than 100 recovered stolen cars on its property awaiting repairs. Most thieves break a window and disassemble the steering column before using a USB cable to start the car.

“Since this is a nationwide problem, we are seeing parts shortages and glass shortages from Kia and Hyundai,” he said. “So some cars had to wait three months for parts and repairs.”

Silk said his goal is to have the technology installed on all new and used Kias and Hyundais at the two dealerships. The technology is being rolled out and Suntrup is accepting dates for the technology to be installed.

While the fix won’t stop a thief from breaking into your car and causing damage, according to Silk, starting the car is virtually impossible.

“The cost of repairing a broken window or steering column, while expensive, is nowhere near as high as buying a new or used car in the current market,” he said. “And if it’s your only car, we all know rental cars are almost impossible to find these days, which is becoming a major inconvenience.”

The technology is designed to work on most makes and models except European cars.

So far this year, St. Louis County has recorded a total of 2,552 vehicle thefts, a 75% increase from this time last year when the county had 1,452. In the city of St. Louis, police said they had recorded 6,490 thefts so far this year, an 84% increase from last year when the number was closer to 3,500.

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