As auto theft reaches crisis levels in Canada, governments, the insurance industry, and individuals need to amp up their prevention and recovery strategies. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, thieves are stealing a car every six minutes in Canada. In this article, we examine the latest car theft statistics, as well as present some measures being taken by the Canadian government and insurance companies to help combat this auto theft crisis.

What exactly is the auto theft crisis in Canada?

Vehicle thefts are up about 300% since 2015 in Toronto. A recent report from the Canadian Financing and Leasing Association (CFLA), states the problem appears to only be getting worse. Michael Rothe, President and CEO of CFLA, says that auto theft is a crisis, and can lead to $1 billion a year in losses. Crimes are being carried out by organized criminal syndicates. They are using the revenue to fund other criminal activities, such as the trafficking of guns and drugs. A report by Global News has previously reported that international crime rings are targeting Canada due to the ease of getting away with crime in the country.

In Ontario alone, auto theft increased more than 71% from 2014 to 2021, with a 14% jump in 2021 and a shocking 40% surge in 2022. 

Auto crime evolving as technology advances

As vehicles make more technological advancements, criminals have no choice but to evolve and diversify with them. Organized crime groups are adapting their modus operandi to be in line with new manufacturing protocols of vehicles. According to Bryan Gast, VP of the investigative services division at Équité Association, manufacturing is the prime reason to spur the change.

“When Transport Canada mandated in 2007 that auto manufacturers have to have anti-theft immobilizers on all vehicles sold in the country, that was the first time [criminals] had to start using technology to steal vehicles,” he said. “I’ve seen things progress over the last few years.” With new technology available, such as Apple Air Tags, thieves can steal a vehicle in less than 30 seconds.

What is being done to combat the auto theft crisis?

1. Increased government funding

Ontario is ramping up its war against auto theft with a $51 million investment over the next three years to target organized crime groups. This month, Ontario is unveiling details for a plan that will include dedicated teams to investigate and prosecute criminal organizations that profit from auto theft.

Ontario aims to deliver on three main strategies:
  1. An organized crime towing and auto theft team – Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will be leading the charge. The team will identify, disrupt, and dismantle organized crime networks.
  2. A community safety grant – In addition, funding is being allocated for additional resources for police services. Funding will assist in preventing auto theft in their communities, including public awareness campaigns and surveillance technology.
  3. A dedicated auto theft prosecution response team – A litigation team providing legal support to police forces to prepare and prosecute complex cases against thieves

The investment will assist law enforcement to identify and dismantle organized crime rings. Gast supports the collaborative approach, and believes, “With collaboration, cooperation, and public-private partnerships, hopefully we’ll start to see positive results.”

Équité Association, a not-for-profit organization delivering fraud analytics and intelligence to Canadian P&C insurers, estimates that car theft costs Canadians more than a billion dollars a year. Profits made by organized criminal rings are funding other criminal activities, such as the trafficking of guns and drugs.

2. Intact Insurance embracing nanotechnology

Within the insurance industry, the $51 billion investment is a welcome and necessary step. Danny Da Costa, Senior Vice President of Intact Insurance’s Ontario division, feels insurers must do their part, too. “This initiative is certainly helpful, but the insurance industry must also be proactive to create a worthwhile change.” The rate of auto theft continues to climb across Canada. This year, increases in theft have gone up 26% between January to April last year.

Enter TagTracking

Enter TagTracking: the affordable anti-theft solution. Its developers in Canada assert that the device is virtually tamper-proof. In addition, the device is completely autonomous from a car’s electrical system. Tag is as much a preventative measure as it is a way to recover stolen cars. Since these bandits now recognize our logo, which [given the effectiveness of the protection], it certainly helps fend off any criminal activity,” says Freddy Marcantonio, Vice President of business development and distribution at Tag. The tracking system is built with three layers of protection:

  1. First layer: An etch on the front driver and passenger side windows. The company logo warns thieves that the car is being protected by the tracking system.
  2. Second layer: The car is also suited with nanotags. Each tag is the size of a grain of rice. They are placed on the components of a vehicle that are traditionally dismantled and sold for parts. Each is encrypted and associated with a unique Tag number.
  3. Third layer: Multiple water-proof tracking units, equipped with anti-jamming technology, are installed on the exterior and interior of the vehicle.

Marcantonio and his partners developed this technology back in 2008. It is meant as a response to the changing realities of modern-day theft. Tag has been available in Quebec since 2010, through a partnership with Intact Insurance. The technology helped to facilitate almost $100 million in car recoveries in Quebec. According to Marcantonio, it reduces the occurrence of car theft drastically. This year, the technology will enter the Ontario market to help combat the province’s auto theft problem. As a bonus, Intact Insurance auto policyholders who install a Tag on their vehicles are eligible for an auto insurance discount.

Here’s more about smart technology and how it may aid in auto theft.

Tips to help reduce the threat of car theft

According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of RATESDOTCA, 85% of Canadians try to make a conscious effort to safeguard their vehicles. Of those that do, 30% use some sort of technology, like a GPS tracker, or car alarm system. Security devices can actually lower the price you pay on your insurance premiums.

As a car owner, make yourself aware of a few preventative tips that can protect your vehicle from the current auto theft crisis:

  • Completely close all windows and doors.
  • Turn your wheels to the side to make your vehicle harder to tow.
  • Park in a well-lit, secure area (if possible).
  • Invest in an OBD blocker. These are designed to block unauthorized communication through the OBD port to your vehicle. This helps prevent key reprogramming or other activities.
  • Ensure that you lock any valuables out of sight.
  • Look into aftermarket solutions for your vehicle.
Manufacturers are exploring stronger security measures. They include biometrics or two-factor authentication. 

Experts suggest using layered security measures to protect your vehicle:

  • When at home, utilize a parking garage (in a building) or your garage.
  • Don’t leave ownership or insurance cards in the vehicle when not in use.
  • Back into your driveway if you have a rear-wheel-drive car or park front-end first if you have a front-wheel-drive car.
  • Use steering wheel locks, data port locks, and either a Faraday box, metal box, or pouch, for keys to protect against a relay attack.
  • Block vehicles in with less-desirable cars.
  • Entirely hide your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from sight. A VIN is widely known as your car’s fingerprint. It can provide valuable information about its manufacturer, model, model year, make, equipment, and class.

Preventing auto theft can help to alleviate auto ownership stress. Purchasing a replacement car, as ongoing supply chain issues continue, is making it more difficult to meet consumer demand. Therefore, as Ontarians deal with the financially crippling effects of inflation, finding ways to sidestep any additional financial inconvenience is critical. This new investment in the province is a significant and positive step towards better protecting Ontarians and their families from the auto theft crisis.

If you have questions about your insurance coverage or have to make a stolen car claim, contact one of our isure representatives today.

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