TACOMA, Wash. - A social media trend continues to encourage violence among young people across the nation and in Washington.
They’re labeled as the "Kia Boyz," known for stealing cars to commit crimes. Tacoma is experiencing issues with the group, most recently victimizing a middle school.
Hilltop Heritage Middle School was on lockdown twice on Friday, after several reports of the Kia Boyz recklessly driving through the parking lots and brandishing weapons. Jeremy Mills has a daughter that attends the school, and he said it is continuously targeted by the group.
"Lately, it’s been happening more often, and it’s becoming more flagrant. I know they have said that there’s been weapons flaunted out the car while students are walking by, or that they flaunted weapons at the school security guard. My daughter has looked on their TikTok, and they have some videos of them shooting their guns in the neighborhood," said Mills.
Tacoma Police Department said the Kia Boyz were suspected of stealing at least two cars in the city on Monday.
Police spokesperson Shelbie Boyd said one of the incidents was an armed carjacking of an Amazon truck full of packages. Officers were able to locate the stolen truck, with packages scattered in the area. Officers helped the Amazon driver deliver the remaining packages.
"They’re robbing, they’re injuring, they’re stealing [cars], they’re pursuing, they’re going on the roadways and getting in collisions," said Boyd. "It’s damaging to this community. And we’re going to lose a whole generation of kids because of this fad."
The trend started on TikTok in 2022. The social media challenge shows how to steal cars, specifically Kias. The trend, mostly followed by teenagers nationwide, continues leading to violence.
Police said it’s random kids claiming to be part of the Kia Boyz that are committing these crimes and posting videos to social media for popularity. Boyd said kids ages 11 to 17 are committing crimes in the city, including armed carjackings and robberies.
"Apparently that’s not enough to go steal grandma’s car in the middle of the night. Now we need to go, and we need to hit grandma, rob her at gunpoint as she’s leaving the supermarket and steal her car," said Boyd. "It’s the whole gamut of crimes that these children are committing."
Police and security are now securing all entrances to the parking lot at Hilltop Heritage Middle School to prevent threatening behaviors by the Kia Boyz. Parents want to know what else is being done to protect schools and neighborhoods.
"I feel like if the school is the target, that from the city or someone else, there should be more accountability about protecting that building and with the kids that are inside of it," said Mills.
"Neighbors call in because of the erratic driving in the neighborhood, and we initiate a pursuit. But because of the danger to the community that these kids were posing, we cancel it. We were not going to continue to pursue them, schools are in session and we’re not going to cause a danger to our community because these children cannot follow basic laws," said Boyd.
Police said they don’t have specific suspects, since most are random, but Kia Boyz usually wear face masks and are always driving erratically. While the police department said officers are doing their part to address the issue within the confines of the law, they also need the community’s help.
"Call it in. Let us start looking into it. And maybe get in there with the right coach, the right counselor, the right schoolteacher, the right community influencer and try and change that one kid’s life. If we can change that one kid’s life, you never know what happens for them," said Boyd.