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Dangerous, illegal social media trend leading to increase of vehicle thefts involving teenagers, police say

"We have seen an rise in Kia and Hyundai thefts, most of it due to the internet driven and social media driven."

BEAUMONT, Texas — Police are sending an urgent warning amid an increase in crimes involving teenagers due to a dangerous and illegal social media trend.

“We have seen a rise in Kia and Hyundai thefts, most of all of it due to the internet-driven, social media-driven TikTok videos that went viral," Sgt. Ken Karr, with the Southeast Texas Auto Theft Task Force, said. "Those were geared to the juveniles, and that's who we're seeing doing these types of crimes."

Related: Four teenagers arrested, charged after Saturday night chase involving stolen car ends in fiery wreck

On Saturday, police attempted to stop five teenagers in a stolen Hyundai Elantra in the area of Lucas Drive and Concord Road.

The driver refused to stop and a chase began. The chase ended when the car crashed at the intersection of 11th Street and Washington Avenue, hitting two other vehicles and later catching fire.

“Officers found a car that has been reported stolen, attempted to stop that car and the vehicle evaded at that point and led the officers on a chase,” Assistant Police Chief Jason Plunkett said. “The five occupants of the vehicle attempted to run on foot.”

No one was in the car when it was engulfed in flames.

Multiple officers responded to the scene and were able to catch all five teenagers. Four of them were taken to the Minnie Rogers Juvenile Detention Center. 

Sgt. Karr said law enforcement has seen a rise in crimes such as Saturday's due to an online trend.

The Southeast Texas Auto Theft Task Force is encouraging drivers to lock their car doors, park in a garage if available, and to never leave their keys in their vehicles.

Saturday's incident is the second time in the past few months that minors have stolen a car and crashed it in Beaumont. Police believe prevention of crimes such these starts at home.

“Parents have to know where their kids are and what they are doing," Assistant Police Chief Plunket said. 

Officers believe social media trends can give children and teenagers bad ideas. Those bad ideas can lead to crime and result in arrests or injuries.

“Not only are they looking at the charges of having the stolen car, but it's a felony in1 Texas to evade in a motor vehicle,” Assistant Police Chief  Plunkett said. “So they may have those charges too.”

Two 16-year-old boys, one 16-year-old girl, and one 14-year-old boy are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, evading in a motor vehicle, evading on foot, resisting arrest, and criminal trespass. 

The other suspect, a 16-year-old girl, was released from the scene with charges pending.

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