PEORIA COUNTY (WMBD) — Vehicle thefts in Peoria County do not seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.

Chris Watkins, Peoria County’s Sheriff, said there have been almost 220 vehicle thefts in the county so far this year. It’s a nationwide issue driving up local crime.

“A lot of the times they [thieves] are not doing it to commit other crimes, sometimes they are, but a lot of it’s joyriding, going from one stolen car to another and it’s just fun for them,” Watkins said.

It may be fun for the many offenders and juveniles that are behind the cars, but the problem is putting potential victims on edge.

Watkins said one issue that is not helping has been people leaving their keys in their cars.

He’s warning the public to not leave their keys in the car, especially at Peoria International Airport, as they’ve taken several reports of stolen vehicles at the airport.

Watkins said another issue is a Tik Tok trend that teachers people to steal 2015 to 2021 Kia and Hyundai models with a USB cable.

“It’s creating havoc in our community. It’s a property crime but it’s still a crime that’s affecting all of us,” Watkins said.

But the crime may be getting more difficult to carry out.

Mike Miller Kia and Hyundai in Peoria is helping law enforcement and vehicle owners by downloading anti-theft immobilizers for eligible vehicles. These upgrades will help keep vehicles, without a key in the ignition, from getting stolen.

Miller said just call and make an appointment if you’re vehicle is eligible and another update will be released this summer for vehicles that are not covered.

While smash and grabs are still an issue, Watkins is giving other advice on ways to keep vehicles in park.

“This is now popular the AirTags,” Watkins said. “People use them for their luggage, well if you hide them in your car and your car gets stolen, it’s easy to track.”

“One of the only ways you can prevent that [stolen vehicles] if you don’t have the update is The Club because that prevents them from moving the steering wheel.”

He said you can find the steering wheel Club at many local retailers that have an auto section. He said they should cost anywhere from $20 to $50.