COLUMBUS, Ohio — In an effort to curb Columbus' epidemic of Kia and Hyundai car thefts and protect the lives of teenage thieves, parents of the group "Kia Boys" met with law enforcement and nonprofits to discuss solutions.
"I think it shows where we are with how much of an epidemic it is," Malissa Thomas-St. Clair said.
Motivated by her own son's murder, Thomas-St. Clair has become a critical voice in the fight to end violence in central Ohio, creating the nonprofit Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children.
"When everyone starts stepping in and saying we have to fight together, I think everyone is recognizing this is bigger than us, and if we don't do something as a cohort with all the powers we have, then we are going to lose a lot more children," she told 10TV in an interview before the meeting.
The Columbus Division of Police says details of the meeting will not be released, as detectives hope to give the groups privacy.
10TV has learned, however, the Franklin County Juvenile Court judges, the Franklin County Prosecutor's office, the NAACP, and victims of car thefts are also attending the meeting. The groups hope the meeting will identify solutions to stopping future thefts and offer assistance to the families of teenage thieves.
The Franklin County Juvenile Court is actively working on solutions by creating a points system that helps court officials decide if a child should be held in the detention center or released. Court officials tell 10TV they hope to identify teens that are likely to reoffend and steal additional cars.
Thieves are stealing Hyundai and Kia models at a higher rate than other cars in Columbus, according to Columbus police. The latest Stolen and Recovered Stolen Vehicle Report shows between January 1, 2022 and September 9, 2022, there were 6,290 total stolen vehicles. Of those, 2,716 were made by Hyundai and Kia.
CrimeTracker 10 has been following the crime trend since the beginning of the year. Police say the vehicles are targeted because they are easy to steal. Detectives say thieves have discovered how to steal the models without triggering an alarm and quickly turning on the ignition without a key.
Thomas-St. Clair said she's concerned it will continue to kill teens, saying she's worried about how young the boys are. According to police reports, many aren't even legally allowed to drive.
"They are right now thinking they are invincible," Thomas-St. Clair said. "They don't see tomorrow, let alone 10 years from now. We as adults coalition have to step in and save them from themselves."
Two teens crashed a stolen Hyundai and died in July as they tried to run from police. Witnesses described the scene as 'horrific.' Two more teen boys associated with car thefts have also been victims of recent homicides.
Video from the Whitehall Division of Police shows how brazen the kids are and how they laugh it off when they are arrested.
"This kid laughing as they were taking him into custody," said Columbus Police Commander Duane Mabry told 10TV in an August interview about the problem with stolen cars. "It's clear that this child does not fully understand what they are doing and what the impact it has."
"We are stepping in as a support system because we have lost our children to violence in several different manners," Thomas-St. Clair said, adding she hopes Thursday's meeting will offer a launching point to end not only car thefts but the larger violence problem in Columbus. "We want to in part on where we are, where we don't want them to be, and how we can offer our services for their teens making poor decisions, so they don't end up dead."