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Free wheel locks return, with a catch | Morning Newsletter

And the state of safety at Temple

Amy Nieves-Renz shown here in January 2023 with “The Club,” a steering wheel device that she uses to safeguard her vehicle. Her car was stolen in November 2022 as a result of what police said was a TikTok trend.
Amy Nieves-Renz shown here in January 2023 with “The Club,” a steering wheel device that she uses to safeguard her vehicle. Her car was stolen in November 2022 as a result of what police said was a TikTok trend.Read moreJessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

    The Morning Newsletter

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Good morning, Philly. It’s a partly sunny Sunday with a high near 62.

Thefts of Kias and Hyundais have begun to decline after a nationwide surge in break-ins sparked by a viral TikTok trend. Still, Philadelphia police are bringing back a free wheel lock distribution program for some car owners almost a year after it was discontinued. But there’s a twist: Residents must first sign a waiver. Our main read looks into the police department’s new policy.

— Paola Pérez (@pdesiperez,

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The Philadelphia Police Department’s free wheel lock program (dubbed OWL for Operation Wheel Lock) provides free wheel locks on a first-come, first-serve basis. To get one, residents must:

📍 Live in Philadelphia

🚗 Own or lease a Kia or Hyundai manufactured from 2011 to 2022

🪪 Show a valid driver’s license and car registration

🖊️ Sign a waiver absolving Philadelphia police of any legal liability

What’s new: The previous wheel lock program was discontinued over legal liability concerns. With this new change, PPD is the only law enforcement agency requiring a waiver for a wheel lock, according to Michael Brooks, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

Catch up quick: The program was introduced in the wake of a nationwide surge in Kia and Hyundai thefts after a viral TikTok trend from 2022 exploited a lack of protections in some vehicles.

Then and now: In Philly, the challenge led to a sharp increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts between 2021 and 2023, according to police data. Last year’s data showed those cars accounted for over 37% of all car thefts and break-ins. To date in 2024, Kias and Hyundais make up over 23% of all auto thefts.

A national decrease: Car safety experts attribute the decline in car thefts to a mix of wheel lock distributions, a security software update from Kia and Hyundai, and the fleeting nature of social media trends.

Just how useful are the wheel locks? Keep reading to hear from experts on what’s behind the national decrease in car thefts, and more on PPD’s reasoning for the new requirement.

Tensions were high on Temple University’s campus as crime climbed in the city during the pandemic.

That was exacerbated by the shooting death of student Samuel Collington outside his off-campus residence in November 2021, which led to a campus safety audit. Concerns were reignited when Temple Police Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald was killed on duty more than 13 months ago.

But Temple seems to be turning a corner. Aggravated assaults, robbery and auto theft in and around campus were down significantly in 2023 from 2022, and the community is noticing.

Notable quote: “I’m not hearing the same frequency of concerns that we had a year ago for sure,” said Jeffrey Doshna, president of Temple Association of University Professors, the faculty union.

The university also recently introduced a ride-along program to recruit students and others interested in law enforcement, and to bridge the gap between students and police officers.

Go on patrol with Temple’s vice president for public safety and to dig deeper on the state of safety at the university.

What you should know today

  1. Street sweeping is officially returning to Philadelphia on Monday and will run through Nov. 1. It’s coming back with a larger footprint in some neighborhoods.

  2. Ready to get outdoorsy? A section of the Schuylkill River Trail near the Manayunk Canal that has been closed since September reopened on Saturday. And Martin Luther King Jr. Drive will once again close to traffic on weekends, allowing pedestrians, bikers, and fresh air enthusiasts unfettered access to the road throughout the season.

  3. President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party say they’re staffing up early in Southeastern Pennsylvania and concluded a swing through the state with a rally at a new Philly headquarters on Saturday.

  4. Warning of potential “electoral chaos” in New Jersey, 17 county clerks are seeking to block a federal judge’s Friday ruling that ordered counties to redesign their ballots in the upcoming June primary.

  5. In the last month, all three of Sen. John Fetterman’s top communications staffers have left Capitol Hill. And here in Philly, Mayor Cherelle L. Parker fired two longtime city planning employees — and hasn’t hired full-time replacements.

  6. On the afternoon of Monday, April 8, a solar eclipse is expected to reach its peak in the Philadelphia area. Some local school districts are adjusting dismissal time so kids can see it. P.S. Be sure to check out The Inquirer’s full guide on how to watch the eclipse (safely).

  7. Nearly 300 shipments containing more than $13 million in counterfeit consumer merchandise were seized by airport officials last year.

  8. Citizens Bank Park celebrated its 20th anniversary Friday, and its current caretaker, Phillies owner John Middleton, figures the Bank is just getting started: “There’s no reason this can’t be here 100 years.”

  9. Bachelor spoiler alert: The Inquirer asked Joey Graziadei and his fiancée some burning questions: What happens after getting engaged on reality TV? Why aren’t they moving to Philly? And are they pro-wiz whit?

❓Pop quiz

Remember that Rhode Island official who demanded free lunch and “the best croissant in Philadelphia” among other outrageous behavior during a Bok tour last year? He’s set to pay up and settle a complaint that resulted from the trip.

How much was he fined?

A) $1,000

B) $2,500

C) $5,000

D) $7,250

Think you know? Check your answer.

🧩 Unscramble the anagram

Hint: Retired Eagles center Jason Kelce cited two Philly spots as his favorite restaurants in town: Zahav and this classic Delco diner 🥞


Email us if you know the answer. We’ll select a reader at random to shout out here. Cheers to Karen Cleaver who correctly guessed Friday’s answer: Jeremy Allen White. The heartthrob is reportedly in talks to play the Boss in an upcoming biopic.

🎶 Today we’re listening to Beyoncé's new record, Cowboy Carter. Our in-house pop critic Dan DeLuca says Queen B is taking us to school, and Made in America could be the best classroom. Imagine that lineup!

👋🏽 Thanks for starting your day with The Inquirer. Enjoy your day, and take care.