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On the ‘frontline’: Toronto-area residents hiring security firms to fight auto theft

With a vehicle stolen every 40 minutes in Toronto, Tom Doyle is always on standby for a phone call.

Doyle, vice president of operations at Corporate Protection and Investigative Services – a private security firm – is used to taking on jobs to patrol condominiums and businesses.

However, nowadays he’s fielding calls from a new type of customer – everyday residents who are trying not to become victims of auto theft.

“It’s gotten crazy,” he told Global News Toronto.

“I’m getting calls and emails a couple of times a week (from people) asking for our rates, asking for what we can do to help them if we can meet with them to see what we can do and what we don’t do.”

Security firms on ‘frontline’ of auto theft fight

Doyle’s security firm is not alone in picking up this kind of work. Ultimate Security Services, Condor Security and GardaWorld all told Global News Toronto they’ve taken on such jobs.

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Auto thefts are a major issue not only in Toronto and the GTA, but across the country.

Click to play video: 'Officer seriously injured chasing auto theft suspects'

Officer seriously injured chasing auto theft suspects

More than 12,000 vehicles were stolen in Toronto last year, Chief Myron Demkiw said on March 18. That number averages to 34 vehicles a day — or one vehicle stolen every 40 minutes.

The number of home break and enters related to vehicle thefts is also up, he said.

With those numbers in mind, the federal government is vowing to bring in stiffer auto theft penalties as part of Budget 2024.

Ottawa is creating new criminal offences to crack down on organized crime, violent car thefts, money-laundering and the possession and distribution of technology that can make it easier to steal cars.

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Click to play video: 'Nearly 600 cars recovered in sweeping auto theft crackdown in Ontario, Quebec: police'

Nearly 600 cars recovered in sweeping auto theft crackdown in Ontario, Quebec: police

Tony Dileo, owner of Ultimate Security Services, told Global News Toronto that firms like his are finding themselves on the “frontline” of the auto theft fight. Majority of recent customers have been homeowners in York Region seeking prevention against break and enters, he added.

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Benjamin Tabesh, founder and CEO of Condor Security, told Global News Toronto residents he’s seen a “five-time surge’ in those particular clients since 2019.

“Both in the form of private residents that want very specific service … and also community members … getting together, mainly because of cost savings, to have that presence,” he said.

“We have physical patrols that we provide in those communities, whether it be Bridle Path, Rosedale, Forest Hill, and also some less affluent communities in Vaughan and North York. This type of crime is indiscriminate.”

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Click to play video: 'Peel Auto Theft Summit pushes federal government for help'

Peel Auto Theft Summit pushes federal government for help

Finally, GardaWorld told Global News Toronto in a statement it has seen a spike in service requests from residential neighbourhoods across Toronto.

“Services we provide at the neighbourhood level include home alarm system monitoring, alarm response, marked vehicle patrols of both homes and neighbourhoods as well as security details,” they said.

Security presence creates ‘level of deterrence’

The security officials stressed they are not a substitute for police.

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If they witness a crime like an auto theft, security guards are trained to get as much description as possible while calling 911 at the same time, Dileo said.

Tabesh said they don’t want their employees getting in harm’s way, but their job is to “create a level of deterrence.”

“They don’t have the same equipment as police do. They don’t have the same backup as police do (and) a lot of times (they) are working alone,” he said.

“Police do respond to these types of incidents when they’re active, I do have to give them credit … (but) unfortunately police are outstretched these days and it’s fallen on organizations like ourselves to assist communities with regards to these types of matters.”

Click to play video: 'Hate crimes, auto thefts on the rise: Toronto Police chief'

Hate crimes, auto thefts on the rise: Toronto Police chief

Going forward, security services will likely have more of a role to play in the fight against auto theft, Doyle said.

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“I see us maybe at the top, even before the police come into it because they don’t have the resources to be out there watching what we’re watching,” he said.

“They don’t have the time to be driving around, maybe all night and nothing happens, where we do. We pay our guys to do it. We’re getting paid from the client, and we have the resources to be out there.”

Click to play video: 'Car theft continues in Peel Region after government grant to tackle crime'

Car theft continues in Peel Region after government grant to tackle crime

Stephanie Sayer, a spokesperson with Toronto police, told Global News Toronto “auto thefts and carjackings cannot be remedied in isolation.”

“Ultimately, we need all levels of government and private industries, including vehicle manufacturers, port authorities and shipping companies working together in a coordinated manner, towards a common goal of fighting organized crime and keeping our communities safe,” she said in part.

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“Police can make arrests, we can provide safety tips, but we are only one piece of the puzzle.”

Community collaboration could help fight auto theft

Not everyone can afford to hire a security service, but there are ways to deter auto theft, the security officials said.

“We tell our communities to make sure their houses are nicely lit constantly throughout the night, not just shutting them off at 11,” Dileo said.

Click to play video: '“I’m coming for you,” Doug Ford tells carjackers in Ontario, promising to build more jails'

“I’m coming for you,” Doug Ford tells carjackers in Ontario, promising to build more jails

Aside from that and purchases like steering-wheel clubs or proximity detectors, community collaboration could go a long way, Tabesh added.

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“Neighbours see things, and it’s enough that they could catch an activity prior to it happening, or give you the heads up of activities that are happening in and around the neighbourhood,” he said.

“I don’t think this is going away. It’s only going to increase because it’s a very lucrative business for these crime syndicates. My takeaway is make sure you are giving yourself as a community member, and as well as collectively, those tools to be able to keep those individuals away from your communities.”

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