St. Louis car dealership develops tech solution to stop would-be car thieves

S T. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) -Since the beginning of 2022, an average of 27 cars have been stolen every day in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County combined. Now a local car dealer is trying to be part of the solution.

Elliot Silk, director of services for Suntrup Kia and Hyundai, got to work with several of his technicians to find a solution to the problem.

“Probably about 8 months ago it started coming faster and faster and then of course clients call me all the time and ask, ‘What are you going to do about it?’” Silk said. “Well, nobody has done anything, so my guys and I thought about it and we took it upon ourselves to find a solution.”

Silk said it has spent the last three months developing a Bluetooth switch, which prevents the ignition from turning without pressing a button on a Bluetooth key fob. Installation costs $200.

“When you put the key in, you turn the key and push the start button and it starts right away,” he said. “You can take the key out, put it back in, and no matter how many times you try, the car won’t start until you push the button on the Bluetooth device.”

Earlier this year, Silk said the Kia dealer had more than 100 stolen cars recovered on its lot, awaiting repairs. Most thieves break a window and throw the steering column before using a USB cable to start the car.

“Because this is a nationwide issue, we are experiencing parts shortages and glass shortages from Kia and Hyundai,” he said. “So we’ve had some cars waiting three months for parts and repairs.”

Silk said its goal is to install the technology in all new and used Kias and Hyundais at the two dealerships. The technology is currently being implemented and Suntrup is accepting appointments to install the technology.

While the fix won’t stop a thief from breaking into your car and causing damage, Silk said it’s virtually impossible to start the car.

“The cost to fix a broken window or steering column, while expensive, is not as much as having to buy a new or used car in today’s market,” he said. “Plus, if it’s your only car, we all know rental cars are almost impossible to find right now, so it becomes a huge inconvenience.”

The technology is designed to work on most makes and models except European cars.

So far this year, St. Louis County has recorded a total of 2,552 vehicle thefts, an increase of 75% from last year, when the county had 1,452. In the city of St. Louis, police It said it has logged 6,490 burglaries so far this year, an 84% increase from last year, when the number was nearing 3,500.

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