Peel police, insurance companies sound the alarm about rising car thefts

As car thefts soar in the GTA, a new report highlights which cars are most vulnerable and why - as police and insurance companies sound the alarm about the unprecedented, billion dollar problem. Tina Yazdani reports.

By Tina Yazdani and Meredith Bond

Car thefts are soaring across the GTA as police and insurance companies are sounding the alarm about the unprecedented billion-dollar problem.

Detective Mark Haywood, Peel Regional Police with the Commercial Auto Crime Unit, said auto thefts are a growing problem as it’s an easy crime to commit but “a very difficult crime to solve.”

One woman said her vehicle was taken from her driveway in September and was able to use a tracking app to locate the vehicle in Mississauga.

However, Peel police say that location is well known for stolen vehicles, but they weren’t able to get a warrant to search the private industrial buildings in the area.

“Going just off a ping on a GPS locator is just not enough,” said Haywood. “I can assure you we’re doing everything we can. It’s an unfortunate crime now where it’s low risk for thieves and high reward.”

Haywood said they are recovering vehicles every day, but it’s hard to keep up because “the amount going missing far exceeds the resources we have to tackle it.”

Peel Region has become a hub for stolen vehicles with rail lines and the airport nearby and they estimate Peel has seen a 30 to 35 per cent increase in auto thefts from last year with almost 5,000 vehicles already stolen this year.

They are recovering just under 50 per cent of them with a small team of just five people.

“Gangs in particular are finding it’s much more profitable and less dangerous to steal a vehicle and sell it on the grey market than selling cocaine or guns,” he explained.

Haywood added there aren’t enough deterrents in the court system as the minimum penalties for car theft are fines and don’t include jail time.

“It’s a property crime … stealing a $500,000 Range Rover is the same as stealing a $5,000 beater car,” said Haywood.

“It’s in the best interest of the general public to put more emphasis on their security systems,” he added.

A new report from Équité Association found that popular SUVs and trucks top the list of the most stolen vehicles. Honda CRVs were first with over 4,100 vehicles being stolen in the country this year, although Lexus RS series vehicles are more likely to get stolen with a theft rate of 6.4 per cent.

And cars aren’t just going missing from driveways, but underground parking garages as well. Another victim, Reza, was parked on P4 of his condo’s garage when he was followed last month. His vehicle was later stolen.

“I was shocked,” he told CityNews. “It’s not about only the car and the money, the insurance is going to follow up with that, but we don’t feel secure.”

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He drove a Range Rover, which was number six on the top 10 most stolen vehicles on Équité’s list.

Bryan Gast with Équité Association said Canada is what they call a “a source nation” which means other countries are targeting Canadian vehicles and said the majority of these vehicles are being exported overseas.

“These vehicles are becoming a commodity and you’re able to move money out of the country, to suit your needs to fund your organization, your criminal organization, without the detection and the penalties that go along with it. Compared to say trafficking in drugs if you get caught trafficking in drugs, obviously the consequences are significantly more than a property crime,” added Gast.

They are working with investigators across the country and manufacturers to develop better security systems.

“They look for their vulnerabilities within their own vehicles, and then they work to find solutions to those then obviously the issue is the criminals will also try and expose and find new vulnerabilities,” explained Gast. “It’s always a bit of a cat and mouse … and now it’s just a matter of staying on top of the technology but technology changes so fast.”

Gast said they are also working on developing a transnational strategy on the theft and export of high value vehicles.

“Within that, we’re going to try to identify what the barriers are, why Canada is being targeted, and what some of the solutions are and hopefully, as a result of that, some of those solutions will be identified.”

Toronto police they are addressing the rising thefts after launching the Organized Crime Investigative Support Team in May, which focuses on car thefts and carjackings.

Gast added drivers should be taking a multi-layered approach to help keep their vehicle from being stolen.

These tips include parking in well-lit areas, in your garage or if you have two vehicles, park the one more susceptible to theft closer to your home and the other one directly behind it.

Also, he said to ensure your doors and windows are locked and you can even purchase a steering wheel lock for an extra layer of protection.

“It’s a bit of old school, but it’s amazing what’s old is new again, and it’s just one layer. They’ll look in the vehicle and see that that’s one more thing that they would have to defeat to be able to steal it and hopefully they would move on,” said Gast.

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