Almost 600 stolen vehicles recovered from sea containers in Montreal, most from Ontario

Nearly 600 stolen vehicles have been recovered in Montreal. Around 75 per cent were from Ontario. Gareth Madoc-Jones with how authorities stopped the cars from being smuggled out of the country.

Provincial police along with Canada Border Service Agency officials say they have recovered almost 600 stolen vehicles as part of a four-month auto theft investigation involving police forces in Ontario and Quebec.

Police officials say 75 per cent of the stolen vehicles recovered from sea containers in Montreal – or 483 – were from Ontario and had a potential value of almost $35 million.

The operation, dubbed Project Vector, which ran from Dec. 12, 2023, to March 9, 2024, involved the inspection of almost 400 shipping containers and the recovery of 598 high-end vehicles, which have been connected to various types of vehicle crimes, including carjackings and home invasions.

OPP deputy commissioner Marty Kearns told reporters in Montreal on Wednesday that investigations by police in Ontario led them to believe that a large percentage of stolen vehicles in that province “were destined for illegal export via the Port of Montreal.” As a result, he said, police and federal agencies in Quebec and Ontario launched Project Vector.

“As our intelligence indicated, the vast majority of recovered stolen vehicles, more than 430, were taken from the Greater Toronto Area,” Kearns said.

Thieves target relatively new vehicles, including high-end pickup trucks and SUVs, which are then exported to markets in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America, he said.

No arrests have yet been made as part of the three-and-a-half month operation.

A breakdown of vehicles reported stolen to Ontario police services that were recovered as part of Project Vector:

  • 215 – Toronto Police Service
  • 125 – Peel Regional Police
  • 58 – York Regional Police
  • 19 – Halton Regional Police Service
  • 15 – Durham Regional Police Service
  • 13 – Ontario Provincial Police
  • 12 – Ottawa Police Service
  • 7 – Hamilton Regional Police Service
  • 6 – Niagara Regional Police Service
  • 5 – Waterloo Regional Police Service
  • 2 – Woodstock Police Service, Barrie Police Service, South Simcoe Police Service
  • 1 – London Police Service, Guelph Police Service

Kearns said the operation has taken millions of dollars away from organized crime, and sent a message “that we are here, we are active.”

“We’re not done … we anticipate arrests and charges in the near future.”

Kearns said Project Vector is the latest in a series of police operations targeting vehicle thefts. In March, a provincial task force in Ontario arrested seven people, who face 34 charges, and recovered 18 cars. Another 34 people alleged to have committed offences related to vehicle theft were arrested in Quebec as part of a joint operation between the OPP, Quebec provincial police and Montreal police, he said.

Some of the recovered vehicles have been involved in other crimes, Kearns said.

“For example, one of the recovered vehicles was linked to a carjacking involving a handgun, another vehicle was stolen from a driveway and then used for a residential break-in just hours later. In another instance, thieves invaded a home during the early morning, confronted the homeowners and made off with two vehicles,” he said.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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