Young people who steal cars for organized crime ‘tortured’ if they fail: Montreal police

In a testimony on Parliament Hill, police speak about the violent threat facing youth involved in vehicle robberies. Xiaoli Li with what authorities suggest might help intercept more stolen cars passing through Canada's shipping ports.

By Michael Talbot and Xiao Li

Speaking to Members of Parliament about Canada’s auto theft crisis, a Montreal police commander shared disturbing information about organized crime’s violent grip on the lucrative underworld market on Thursday, saying young people tasked with stealing the vehicles are sometimes tortured if they fail.

“Certainly we see these young people of 15 to 25 years of age — and we’ve seen young people from Montreal [go] to Toronto to steal cars, and they even get tortured in Toronto if they aren’t successful,” he said.

Police from Quebec say that doesn’t mean they’re giving young people a pass, but they want to make it clear that it’s their bosses they really want to lock up.

“I think if we really want to have an impact and really want to dismantle and lower this crisis, we really have to go to the people pulling the strings, and really concentrate on the networks that are exporting and transporting and have contacts with people overseas,” said Chief Insp. Michel Patenaude, Sûreté du Québec.

The ports of Montreal and Vancouver are often the last stops for stolen cars before they are shipped overseas.

Port officials told the House of Commons Public Safety Committee that at this point, it’s not possible to search every single container that leaves Canada.

“With the equipment Canadian Border Service Agents already uses to scan import containers, it takes between four and five minutes (to scan) each container,” revealed Félixpier Bergeron, the Director of Port Protection and Business Continuity for the Montreal Port Authority.

“So if you have 2,000 trucks a day entering the port, times four minutes, it doesn’t work.”

Port officials add there are safety concerns with new high-speed scanners, saying people cannot be in the area when they are used.

Police say they don’t believe auto theft exports are inside jobs, but say it would be helpful if port officers had more authority to open containers they believe contain stolen cars.

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