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St. Louis mayor, Missouri attorney general trade barbs over handling of Hyundai, Kia theft epidemic

Attorney General Eric Schmitt took to social media to criticize Mayor Tishaura Jones' threat to sue automakers over soaring thefts.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt traded barbs on social media Tuesday about the mayor’s decision to threaten to sue two automakers whose vehicles are being stolen at record rates in the city.

Jones’ administration announced Monday that it had sent a demand letter to Hyundai Motor America and Kia. In it, City Counselor Sheena Hamilton ordered the companies to take steps to fix the untold amount of vehicles made without anti-theft technology or face a lawsuit from the city within 30 days.

On Tuesday, Schmitt tweeted: “St. Louis has a violent crime problem. What’s causing crime in the city? The Mayor’s war against the police? The prosecutor letting criminals run wild? Evidently city ‘leaders’ think it’s….the cars. Yes — car manufacturers are to blame not criminals. You can’t make this stuff up.”

Jones fired back: “Once again, Schmitt is too busy using our tax dollars to pursue a promotion rather than paying attention to the real problems plaguing our city and our state. Citizens elected me to take action to help keep neighborhoods safe; that’s why we’re looking at ways to hold big corporations accountable for a design issue that has led to a nearly 1,000 percent spike in car thefts and turned breaking the law into a viral social media challenge. Instead of filing frivolous lawsuits against China or our schools and attacking me with petty insults, the AG should do his job as the state’s chief consumer advocate.”

Jones then retweeted a post from On Democracy podcast host Fred Wellman, which read: “Let’s not mince words @AGEricSchmitt  is a fraud and a jackass. He’s sold his soul to be the latest Jeff Roe product for sale. He gives absolutely no (expletive) about the people he’s supposed to serve.”

The controversy has to do with an out-of-control problem involving thefts of some makes and models of Hyundais and Kias.

So far this year, more than 1,800 Hyundais and Kias have been stolen. That’s a 1000% increase in thefts of those vehicles over last year, according to the St. Louis Police Department.

Police say thieves have figured out some makes and models that do not have push-button ignitions are easy to steal by using USB cords as keys.

Attorneys for the automakers say their vehicles are not defective, and they are not responsible for people who chose to engage in criminal behavior. Hyundai Motor America is going to be offering security kits at authorized dealerships beginning Oct. 1 but has not said how much they will cost.  

The I-Team has been covering the issue for months and will be answering viewers' questions during a special segment at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday on the 5+ app.

Text your questions to 314-425-5355.

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