TN bill looks to crackdown on auto thefts, key fob simulation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Attorney generals nationwide are working to put the law in the driver’s seat in an effort to reduce the number car thefts. With the same goal in mind, the Tennessee House passed a bill on Monday to criminalize key fob simulation.

If passed and signed, Tennessee House Bill 548 will go into effect on July 1, making it a Class A misdemeanor to “possess a device, tool, machine, implement, or other item capable of programming a smart key or key fob with the intent to use it or allow it to be used to commit theft.”

Outside of Tennessee, 23 states have come together banding against Kia and Hyundai. The Tennessee attorney general has not signed on to this effort.

They say the automobile manufacturers have “failed to address” the spike in thefts of their vehicles and state that Hyundai and Kia chose not to include anti-theft technology for the cars made between 2011 and 2021, which most manufacturers include as standard.

According to Nashville Metro police, 607 cars have been stolen so far in 2023 through March 11 in Davidson County. That’s down 6.2% from the same in 2022 when police say 647 cars were stolen.

Stealing a car has been simplified to the point that it sparked a trend on social media. TikTok videos show how thieves can start the car without a key, sometimes with just a cable wire.

Police officers nationwide are saying the crime doesn’t stop with just stealing the car.

“Many of our shooters are shooting from stolen vehicles and many victims are being shot in stolen vehicles,” said Assistant Chief Paul Formolo with the Milwaukee Police Department.

In response to the increase in threats, Hyundai announced the company is offering a free anti-theft software upgrade to certain vehicles until June 2023. For a full list of the vehicles that are available for the upgrade, click here.

Hyundai said Monday, all their vehicles meet federal requirements.

“We need to know what Kia and Hyundai’s plan is for people who are not able to get that software,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul. “We need to make sure that people who can’t access the software are able to get steering-wheel locking devices free of charge and so we also need to know what Kia and Hyundai are going to do to help the communities that have been impacted by these steps.”

Kia said it’s contacted more than one million customers about the software upgrades.

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