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To say that Ontario has a car theft problem is an understatement. There have been 4,808 vehicles reported stolen in Toronto so far this year – up 40% in comparison to the same period in 2021. Protecting your vehicle against auto theft has become a greater concern for many car owners since the start of the pandemic. With shortages in supply, the rise in auto theft is surging. In this article, we identify the neighbourhoods being targeted, dissect the causes of auto theft, as well as list the most sought-after vehicles by criminals. In addition, we have a list of articles to help you better understand auto theft, as well as strategies to help protect yourself against the rise in auto theft in the GTA.

Where the crimes are happening

In the last week alone, police received 39 reports of a stolen vehicle in North York. That is down from 41 the previous week. TheStar.com reports the thefts that occurred last week in the following areas:

  • Banbury – Don Mills
  • Bedford Park – Nortown
  • Black Creek
  • Bridle Path – Sunnybrook – York Mills
  • Downsview- Roding – CFB
  • Glenfield – Jane Heights
  • Henry Farm
  • Humber Summit
  • Humbermede
  • Lansing – Westgate
  • Newtonbrook East & West
  • Pelmo Park – Humberlea
  • Westminster – Branson
  • York University Heights
  • Yorkdale – Glen Park

Involvement of organized crime

The idea that the rise in auto theft is spontaneous couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, car thieves do not steal vehicles at random; they are usually highly-organized and in many cases, have links to organized crime. How often your make and model is stolen is one of the factors insurers consider when determining insurance premiums. In addition, research by the IBC found that thieves try to steal your vehicle for one of five reasons:

1. To sell abroad

Police in Peel Region say that 80 to 85 percent of stolen vehicles are in connection to organized crime and will most likely be sent overseas. Destination ports typically include countries within West Africa, Europe and the Caribbean.

2. To sell to local unsuspecting customers

Thieves give these vehicles a false VIN and then sell to unsuspecting consumers here in Ontario.

3. To be sold for parts

“Chopping” or dismantling vehicles for parts is a common practice for converting your car into cash.

4. To get somewhere

Also known as “joyriding”. Your car might be taken for no more than a night’s entertainment.

5. To commit another crime

Thieves are frequently in need of vehicles to help them commit other crimes—usually robberies.

Toronto Police Services investigations

Toronto Police had involvement in several investigations since the fall of 2021, trying to track down and dismantle crime rings that are responsible for the thefts:

July 2022: The Ontario Provincial Police conduct a 22-month investigation, known as Project MYRA”, which began in September 2020. Police uncover an auto theft network that was modifying stolen vehicles’ identification numbers (VINs) in order to sell them. More than 200 stolen cars were recovered and 28 people received charges, including a number of ServiceOntario employees.

February 2022: Toronto Police conduct an investigation—dubbed “Project Taurus” in May 2021. Suspects were targeting high-end vehicles, primarily along the Yonge Street corridor, between Sheppard and Finch Avenues. The vehicle brands stolen included Lamborghini, McLaren, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Porsche and Mercedes Benz. Seven people were charged in connection with the eight-month investigation into a cross-borders, high-end car theft ring, responsible for at least 28 car jackings in Toronto.

January 2022: Two dozen people face more than 300 charges combined in connection with an investigation known as “Project High 5″. What Police called a “prolific auto theft ring” operating in the Greater Toronto Area, spanned multiple jurisdictions over a six-month period. “Project High 5” was a collaboration between Peel Regional Police, Halton Regional Police, York Regional Police and the Ontario Provincial Police. Officials also said that members included the Canada Border Services Agency, Mississauga, Port of Montreal – SPVM Police, Equite Association, Port of Halifax and the Halifax Police Service.

Most popular vehicles targeted

According to data collected by HelloSafe.ca, 47.2% of all cars stolen in Ontario in 2021 were SUVs. The report found that over the last few years, the automotive industry has seen a major trend in the emerging population of SUVs (sport utility vehicle), which have won over millions of Canadian consumers. This data is based on car theft claims made by car insurance companies. The report also found that a car is stolen every 48 minutes in Ontario, and some makes and models are more popular targets than others. According to the insurance platform’s data, the top three most stolen cars of the year in Ontario are the 2018 Lexus RX, the 2019 Honda CR-V and the 2019 Honda Civic.

The top 10 most stolen vehicles

  1. Lexus RX, 2018, SUV
  2. Honda CR-V, 2019, SUV
  3. Honda Civic, 2019, Sedan
  4. Toyota Highlander, 2019, SUV
  5. Chevrolet/GMC, Silverado/Sierra 1500, 2500, 3500 2017, Truck
  6. Ford, F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450, 2017, Truck
  7. Dodge Ram 1500, 2500, 3500, 2019, Truck
  8. Honda Accord, 2018, Sedan
  9. Toyota Corolla, 2017, Sedan
  10. Land Rover, Range Rover, 2016, SUV

Car theft costs everyone

Approximately 80,000 vehicles were stolen in the past year. This is a 1% increase from 2020. However, the rise in auto theft is much more than an insurance problem. It’s reach is beyond merely inconveniencing drivers. According to government-approved estimates, auto insurance fraud – including theft – costs Ontarians up to $1.6 billion yearly.

These costs include:

  • Fixing or replacing stolen vehicles
  • Increases in health care and treatment costs
  • Investigative and judicial costs linked to detecting and penalizing fraudsters and thieves

Find the latest reports of stolen vehicles for Toronto neighbourhoods by clicking here.  

Residential auto theft on the rise

For the past several years, police have been seeing an increase in the theft of vehicles from residential driveways. Higher-end vehicles, especially SUV’s, are the primary target of thieves in Ontario. These vehicles fetch large returns when they are sold abroad. Countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Central America and the Middle East are common stolen vehicle destinations. Stolen luxury vehicles are routinely being seized by Canadian Border Services agents. New technology, such as smart keys, has made stealing your vehicle much easier. A pandemic-driven shortage of semiconductor chips needed for new cars has driven the technological rise in auto theft. As the demand for these chips grows, so does the methods of acquiring them.

Whether or not your car is included in the above list, there are some simple things you can do to deter thieves and avoid car theft. Some of these precautionary measures can get you a discount on car insurance, too. The rise in auto theft is scary, and it can happen to anyone, even when you’ve taken all the right steps to avoid it. Reach out to your isure broker to make sure you have the right coverage in case your vehicle is ever stolen.

To learn more about how to protect your vehicle, check out isure’s library of articles related to automobile theft below:

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