CHICAGO (CBS) — Ms. Juanita Blalock’s car was stolen from in front of her house in West Englewood this past Sunday after she returned from church.
We told you her story on Thursday. She was one of hundreds of Kia and Hyundai drivers victimized by a spike in car thefts in Cook County and beyond this summer.
It so happens that CBS 2’s Tara Molina got a call from Illinois State Police after our Thursday story aired. It turns out state police found the 2020 Kia Sportage early this week – but no one called Blalock until we got involved.
Molina was also the one who called Blalock late Thursday to let her know her car had been found – since we at CBS 2 were notified after her story aired.
“They can’t tell me about one little car?” Blalock said.
At the time we talked to her on Friday, Blalock had not heard from Illinois State Police, nor from Chicago Police – who took her theft report.
“I am so – I’m disgusted,” Blalock said. “I’m getting all these phone calls. They say they got my car – the state police. Then the state police just called and say they don’t have it.”
Where did police take the car when they found it? Blalock doesn’t know, and she said she is exhausted.
Blalock has talked to us twice from the parkway in front of her house in West Englewood this week – once about her car being stolen, and on Friday because that car was found early this week – and no one called to tell her about it.
It’s especially frustrating, since Blalock been going back and forth with her insurance with and rental car companies – thinking her car was missing when it has been in police custody.
We know that when it comes to the theft, Blalock isn’t alone.
We learned from July 1 until Aug. 10, 642 Kias and Hyundais were stolen in Cook County. Last year, there were just 74.
This amounts to a 767 percent increase.
The bar graph below shows the trend this year compared with last year going back to January.
But when it comes to getting answers – finding Blalock’s car and finding out what shape it’s in – Blalock says so far, she has just been getting the runaround.
“I’m thanking you for coming back today. Maybe they’ll do something,” Blalock said. “This is just rough on me. I can’t go on too much. I’m not sleeping. So why is it everybody knew about the car, but I don’t?”
We talked to both Illinois State Police – who Blalock was told found her car and took it in – and Chicago Police – who, again, took her theft report. We initially got the same runaround Blalock did.
Illinois State Police eventually issued this statement, which said it was Chicago Police who should have told Blalock her car was found, but also saying state police had done so:
“The agency where the report originated is responsible for notifying the individual – so in this case it would have been Chicago PD. After being recovered early Wednesday morning, the vehicle was towed to a tow yard. That information should have been passed to the victim by the originating agency, but it appears the victim was simply told ISP had the vehicle. ISP has reached out to Ms. Blalock to let her know about her vehicle and the tow yard.
“The vehicle was located, abandoned near 16th and Karlov in the City of Chicago. It is unknown to us if the vehicle was involved in any crimes. The original theft occurred in the City of Chicago, so the theft would be investigated by the Chicago Police Department.”
CBS 2’s Molina sent the state police statement to Chicago Police, who at that point got involved and called Blalock. Chicago Police confirmed the car was at Hi-Tech Towing, at 1661 S. 46th Ct. in Cicero.
We learned Friday afternoon that Blalock was also told her car is not drivable. Chopper 2 was able to locate the car in that tow yard in Cicero, where it has been held for days.
While Blalock said she is happy to have more information, it remains the case that no one is addressing what the car was involved in – or the nature of the investigations happening now.
“The state police got it, so obviously it was out on the expressway somewhere,” Blalock said.
Blalock said she is also discouraged at how long it took to get the information about where her car was. Since she has learned her car isn’t drivable, Blalock is also concerned about the cost of a replacement.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the greater auto theft issue, the Cook County Sheriff’s office advised that owners of Kia and Hyundai vehicles take steps such installing aftermarket immobilization devices – or kill switches – that render a car inoperable without a separate key. Car alarms with motion detection, steering wheel locking devices, and vehicle tracking systems are also advised.
The Sheriff’s office also asked that Kia and Hyundai owners fill out a consent form on their website that allows law enforcement agencies to obtain the cooperation of vehicle manufacturers to track stolen cars more quickly. Car owners who sign the consent form can also get a sticker to place on their cars warning would-be thieves that the car is being tracked by investigators.
The stickers are also available at all Cook County courthouses.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported it has been aware of an increase in thefts of Kias and Hyundais around the country since 2019. The organization noted that vehicular crimes, carjackings, and catalytic converter thefts are nearing all-time highs, and nearly 1 million vehicles were stolen last year alone.
The bureau did not have any information specific to Illinois about Kia and Hyundai thefts, but they did have information on our northerly neighbors. In Wisconsin, the NICB’s 2021 Hot Wheels report indicated that seven of the top 10 most stolen vehicles were Kias and Hyundais.