‘What am I supposed to do now?’: Brooklyn Park mother seeks accountability for stolen Kia
Single mother Jasmine Curry was on her way out the door to take her kids to school earlier this month when she found out the car she bought a day before — a shiny, silver 2011 Kia Optima — had been stolen and wrecked.
Curry has been without a car since, and because she works for rideshare and delivery services, a job too.
“I got that new car they wanted to be seen in it,” Curry said Monday, describing that June 1 moment where she planned to reveal the car she bought the evening before to her kids on a ride to school.
On the way from her apartment to the parking spot she left it in, she got a call from police.
“And he says, ‘Jasmine, [are] you the owner of a 2011 Kia?” Curry recalled. “I said, ‘It’s in the visitor parking.’ And he said, ‘No. I think you might want to go check out there and see if your car is out there.'”
Curry, holding the keys to the car in her hand, was in disbelief when she found an empty parking spot littered with broken glass.
“[Police] said they broke the back window and drove it up out of here,” Curry said, showing a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew the parking spot Monday.
“My car, that’s how I make money,” she said with emotion beginning to well up. “That’s how I provide for my kids, and they snatched that away from them. Forgive me, I’m an adult, but they snatching stuff away from my babies.”
An associated arrest report showed the Crystal Police Department ultimately arrested a 14-year-old connected to four car thefts involving several law enforcement jurisdictions that same day.
A 12-year-old passenger was also involved, according to Crystal Police Lieutenant Peter Underthun, who added, both of them had prior, similar records.
“So they had been on a spree throughout the entire evening, stealing multiple people’s vehicles, abandoning them in different places, getting into two police chases, and ultimately being apprehended,” Lt. Underthun explained in an interview last week.
“These juveniles may think they’re just joy riding, or they’re doing the ‘Kia Hyundai challenge,’ but they’re causing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars of damage. You know, increasing everybody’s insurance rates, disturbing the public, creating unsafe conditions on the roadways, damaging police equipment. There’s a whole list of other crimes and costs that go along with all this stuff.”
Thousands of cars have been stolen across the metro so far this year and several police agencies confirmed that the majority of known thieves are teenagers and even kids.
For every car stolen, there’s a person or family left without transportation, and often, with big bills to repair or replace their vehicles.
Curry’s car, which has at least major body damage at the front and rear, has been sitting in an impound lot since it was recovered by police. She’s still on the hook for car payments as she figures out what to do next, Curry said.
“I gained it; I accumulated it; I worked hard for it. What am I supposed to do now?” she continued.
Lt. Underthun said he got into this work, in part, to be a resource to victims of crime.
“That’s one of the toughest things for me too,” he said when asked if there is financial relief available for victims of car thefts.
“Justice for a victim would be, have the offender charged and face some sort of repercussions for their behavior, and then also recoup some of the damage that they caused. But you’re not going to get a $10,000 restitution payment out of a 14-year-old child.”
“I don’t know what they go through and I hope they get better,” Curry said, asked to address the teenagers accused of stealing her car. “However, their actions torment people. It violates people, it hurts people in a major way and they should realize that.”
The blame lies with the people stealing the cars, according to both Curry and Underthun.
However, given a Kia was stolen in this case, there is another layer.
98% of car thefts in Crystal are made by either Kia or Hyundai, police estimated. The two manufacturers have become well-known in the last couple of years for a defect in ignition-start vehicles that makes certain models significantly easier to steal.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and 17 other state attorney generals in April called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to force a recall of the affected vehicles.
NHTSA responded this month, claiming the issue does not warrant a recall, citing a software update to deter theft that the manufacturers have made free to affected car owners.
Without a recall, responsibility continues to fall on the driver to get the update, something Hyundai executives said has been in the process of being rolled out since February in a separate letter responding to Ellison.
When Curry bought her Kia on May 31, she said no one told her about the defect or available updates said to prevent theft.