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Stolen to commit crime or sold overseas: Vehicle thefts increase in Edmonton

Edmonton police say they are dealing with a steady increase in vehicle thefts.

The number of vehicles reported stolen in the city has increased 26 per cent over the last three years, according to the Edmonton Police Service.

In 2021, 3,744 vehicle thefts were reported to the EPS. That number jumped to 4,381 in 2022 and 4,714 in 2023.

The EPS said Wednesday that vehicle thefts are on the rise across Canada. While Western Canada hasn’t seen the same spike experienced in eastern provinces, police said Edmonton is a “hotspot for overseas shipments.”

“We see mainly two different motives when it comes to auto theft,” said Acting Staff Sgt. Ian Strom with the EPS targeted response to auto theft prevention teams (TRAP).

“Some vehicles are being stolen and used locally for crime, while others are being shipped overseas for profit.”

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In addition to more vehicles being taken, the number of stolen vehicles being recovered is on the decline. Citing Équité Association, the EPS said the recovery rate in Western Canada has dropped from 84 per cent in 2022 to 77 per cent in 2023.

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“This is consistent with what we’re seeing in Edmonton,” said Strom. “Vehicles being stolen and shipped overseas contribute to this reduction in stolen vehicle recovery.”

One of the main reasons vehicles are being stolen in Edmonton is because drivers leave their vehicles running and unlocked, according to police.

Experts have warned that Canada is quickly becoming a “source nation” for vehicle theft and resales, often with the involvement of organized crime groups.

The rising problem of vehicle theft in Canada was the topic of a summit in Ottawa last week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is considering stiffer penalties for those who participate in auto theft.

“First things first, we need to stop these criminals who are part of the gangs and organized crime,” Trudeau said Thursday.

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In Edmonton, TRAP made 490 arrests related to auto theft in 2023. The arrests resulted in more than 1,700 criminal charges and the recovery of over $18 million in stolen vehicles and equipment.

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“We are also experiencing an increase in violence and crime associated with accused persons from stolen vehicle arrests. In 2023 alone, TRAP teams seized 35 firearms and over $110,000 in illicit drugs from stolen vehicles,” Strom said.

— with files from Alex Boutilier, Global News

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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