TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Tampa Police Department is giving out free steering wheel locks for residents after recent vehicle thefts.

On Monday, the police department announced they’ve partnered with Hyundai Motor America to combat the recent thefts by offering steering wheel locks to select vehicle owners.

Police said an increase in vehicle thefts is partly due to social media trends showing people how to start Hyundai and Kia vehicles without a key. Instead, thefts use the tip of a phone charger or USB cable to start the cars.

According to TPD, there was a nationwide increase in Hyundai and Kia thefts in 2021 because vehicles built before Nov. 1, 2021, were made without an engine immobilizer. Newer models with push-button starts have an immobilizer and vehicles with a key ignition may not have an immobilizer.

In 2022, 46 Kia’s and 49 Hyundai’s were reported stolen in Tampa. So far this year, 15 Kia’s and 14 Hyundai’s have been stolen, according to police. TPD said that while auto theft numbers are not significantly higher than other make and model vehicles in the city, officers are taking “proactive steps to prevent an increase in theft.”

After reaching out to Hyundai, vehicle owners will be able to get a free steering wheel lock at all three of TPD’s district offices and downtown headquarters.

Kia and Hyundai vehicle owners will need to provide registration to verify ownership of the vehicle before receiving the steering wheel lock.

“We regularly remind drivers that the most important way to avoid auto burglaries or thefts is to lock their car doors, but any additional help we can provide to combat the potential for auto thefts is a useful resource in our crime fight,” Interim Chief Lee Bercaw said in a statement. “We hope Hyundai and Kia owners will take advantage of this free safety tool.”

The steering wheel locks can be picked up in the lobby at the following TPD locations while supplies last:

  • District 1: 3818 W. Tampa Bay Blvd.
  • District 2: 9330 N. 30th St.
  • District 3: 3808 N. 22nd St.
  • TPD Headquarters: 411 N. Franklin St.