About The Automobile Theft Authority
What is the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority (ATA)?
The Automobile Theft Authority (ATA) is a division within the Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions (DIFI), whose mission is to deter vehicle theft through a cooperative effort by supporting law enforcement activities, vertical prosecution, and public awareness/community education programs.
The ATA is funded through a mandatory semiannual fee of $.50 per vehicle insured under a motor vehicle liability insurance policy issued by the insurer. The ATA receives no funding from the State's General Fund
What does the ATA do?
The ATA functions as an integral component in a statewide network of law enforcement, criminal justice, and crime prevention partners working together to combat vehicle crimes across Arizona.
Nearly 95% of collected funds are issued for five major grant programs administered by ATA staff, which include the Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force (VTTF), Vertical Prosecution, Law Enforcement, Public Awareness, and Professional Training.
The programs are intended to reduce the number of vehicle thefts through law enforcement and prosecutorial efforts and to educate the public on how to proactively and effectively protect their vehicles from theft.
As you’re likely aware, Kias and Hyundais have become increasingly popular vehicles to steal due to a vulnerability discovered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2021. Stealing these vehicles became an internet sensation as a result of a TikTok video posted by a group calling themselves the Kia Boyz. The video introduced the “Kia Challenge'', demonstrated how to steal the vehicles, and then showed the thieves driving recklessly on city streets. Part of the appeal to the thefts was likely the use of a USB cable to rotate the exposed ignition cylinder. It’s noteworthy that no data or electricity flows through the USB cable, it just happens to be the perfect size to fit in the plug to rotate the ignition cylinder. The discovered vulnerability affects most Kias produced between 2010 and 2021 and most Hyundais produced between 2015 and 2021, as these vehicles were manufactured without an engine immobilizer. An engine immobilizer prevents the engine from starting without a paired key. Fortunately, all 2022 and newer Kia and Hyundai models are now manufactured with engine immobilizers but the problem remains for an estimated 8.3 million vehicles.
The Arizona Automobile Theft Authority (ATA) has been able to track the rise in thefts of these vehicles since the deployment of the Auto Theft Crime Tracking (ACT) database in May of 2022. Prior to this date the ATA did not have timely, reliable statewide data to monitor Kias’ and Hyundais’ rapid ascension on Arizona’s Top 10 most stolen vehicles list. In May of 2022, Kias and Hyundais had already moved onto the list, occupying spots near the bottom at #9 and #10. Summer of 2022 showed these vehicles hovering in the same places until August, when Kia began a steep climb, reaching #2 by June. Hyundais followed suit with their own climb in September to eventually land at #3 by June.
The rise to high places on Arizona’s Top 10 most stolen vehicle list was evidenced by compiling monthly theft numbers that showed an average of 104 thefts per month from May through September 2022. After September 2022, the rapid increase was accelerated as the combined Kia and Hyundai thefts averaged 239 from October 2022 through September of 2023.
The ACT database has been able to quickly show where the thefts are occurring since geolocation was added to ACIC entry screens on January 31, 2023. From that day forward, all thefts and recoveries entered into ACIC can be mapped. The two maps, metro Phoenix and Tucson, show the heaviest concentration of thefts in red, mid-level concentrations in yellow and lower concentrations in blue. In metro Phoenix the map shows a consistent theft problem in all major cities that comprise high population centers of the greater Phoenix area.