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31 arrested in joint OPP-Quebec police operation targeting auto theft in Ontario

Thirty-one people were arrested this week in a joint operation targeting auto thefts in Ontario, provincial police announced Friday.

The operation was carried out by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Sûreté du Québec and Montréal police.

In all of the cases, suspects were apprehended by the OPP after charges were laid, said the force’s Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns at a news conference Friday.

“The accused failed to appear for court purposes or violated their release conditions, resulting in warrants being issued for their arrests,” Kearns said.

“Project Volcano was an initiative to bring these such individuals before the courts to ensure they answer to the charges laid against them.”

Accused as young as 16 driving stolen vehicles: police

According to the deputy commissioner, in many cases the accused were wanted not only for auto theft but also for “many serious offences” such as possession of a loaded firearm, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and impaired driving.

“We’ve encountered accused as young as 16 years old driving stolen vehicles recklessly in attempts to evade police,” Kearns said.

“Several serious motor vehicle collisions have resulted from these incidents, putting the lives of our police officers and the lives of members of the public at significant risk.”

Kearns said that between 2021 and 2023, there has been a 206 per cent increase in violent carjackings and home invasions resulting in serious injury or deaths, predominantly in the Greater Toronto Area.

Nearly 3,000 vehicles have been stolen in Ontario in the past seven weeks alone, he said.

Since October 2023, 121 suspects have been arrested, 730 charges laid and 157 vehicles have been recovered. 

“Auto theft is impacting Ontarians at an unprecedented rate,” Kearns said.

“What is also concerning is the speed with which criminals are able to steal vehicles, often using methods to defeat existing anti-theft technology.”

Last November, Premier Doug Ford announced that the Ontario government would spend $18 million over the next three years to fund projects intended to fight auto theft.

WATCH | Ford says tougher bail rules needed to curb auto thefts:

Ontario premier calls for tougher bail rules for auto theft charges

2 months ago

Duration 0:41

Premier Doug Ford says Ontario courts are being too lenient with those accused of violent thefts and carjackings. He says he has seen videos of people kicking down doors with guns and ‘it’s unacceptable.’

The money will come through a preventing auto thefts grant, according to a news release. Through the grant, the money will fund 21 police projects that feature “new and enhanced crime-fighting measures” that target the prevention, detection, analysis and enforcement of auto thefts, the province said.

In January, the federal government said it is providing $121 million for police in Ontario to target gun and gang violence, with a particular focus on the surge in auto thefts and carjackings in the GTA. A month later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested his government is considering tougher penalties for auto theft.

“Organized crime is becoming more brazen, and the overseas market for the stolen cars is expanding,” the prime minister said.

“Cracking down on auto theft means bringing law enforcement, border services, port authorities, car makers and insurance companies together.”

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