Which cars are more likely to be stolen in the Portland metro area?

FOX 12 Investigates the ongoing problem of car thefts in Portland.
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 9:35 AM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - A car theft crisis is impacting drivers in the Portland metro and forcing major car brands to scramble to make their cars more theft resistant.

According to data from the Portland Police Bureau in the last 12 months Kia tops the list of the most common make of cars stolen in the Rose City. Hyundai, Ford, Honda, and Subaru are also noted by as commonly stolen makes of cars behind Kia. In the past year, PPB reports about 1600 Kia thefts. The trend also  impacts drivers outside the Metro Area. Battle Ground resident, Emily Witthauer says she had her 2014 Kia Optima stolen back in March of this year.

”We went out to get coffee in the morning and I came back because my sister picked me up and she was like, ‘Hey, where’s your car?’” said Whittahauer.  “So then we obviously filed a police report, and from there, the next day we found out that it was used in a burglary in Hillsboro from the police department. ”Whitthauer says her Optima was used in this burglary the same night it was stolen. Through this entire ordeal, she learned that her car lacked a device that could have easily prevented the theft.

“There was no immobilizer put in the vehicle, which has been a standard for a long time in all vehicles,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of it when I purchased the vehicle. It took them under five minutes to walk back, steal my car and leave with my car.”

Kia has acknowledged this issue of a lack of immobilizers in some its cars, which are software devices that prevent the car from starting without a key being inside the vehicle. Kia sent Fox 12 a statement on this issue which reads in part: Kia has already notified all eligible owners and lessees of these vehicle models – over 3 million total – that they are able to receive the free security software upgrade that we have developed. To date, more than 710,000 vehicles nationwide have received the upgrade, which is designed to restrict the operation of the vehicle’s ignition system should a potential criminal attempt to steal a locked vehicle without the key.

According to Portland police, the most recent set of data, from July 2022 to July 2023, there have been 10,520 reported stolen cars.

Both Hyundai and Kia have created online resources for owners of their cars to see if they are eligible for free anti-theft upgrades. Hyundai’s can be found here, and Kia’s can be found here.  At Northwestern Towing in Portland, driver Jake Best says recovering stolen cars, specifically Hyundais and Kias, are a common occurrence for he and his team. He showed FOX 12 crews a stolen Hyundai that he had recovered several days ago, along with a stolen Kia. Best says like the Portland police data reflects, he is also seeing Kia cars stolen the most. “It’s the most common stolen car, and they’re stolen within a minute,” said Best. “So most of the time it’s the police departments calling us, letting us know that they recovered the vehicle. But a lot of times we get calls from owners.”

Best says stolen cars he recovers sit at the lot for several days before getting recovered by car theft victims if they have full insurance coverage to cover the tow fees. If drivers don’t have full coverage or lack insurance, Best says the stolen cars then get scrapped after two or three months, because they’re usually in poor condition from being crashed by the thieves, or rendered unsafe because of thieves using drugs like fentanyl in stolen cars.For Emily Witthauer, her 2014 Kia Optima ended up being a total loss because of damage from getting broken into, and dangerous levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine being found in the car after a biohazard test. She says this  an ordeal she hopes she never has to go through again.”I was panicked. I was like ‘Where is my car? Where is my stuff?  What is in the car?’ “It was very violating.”