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Police calling on federal government to consider car theft a ‘national crisis’

Police are calling on the federal government to create a “national action plan” to combat auto theft as it becomes increasingly violent, raising concerns at the Annual Auto Theft Summit in Peel Region.

“The nature of these auto thefts is, as we have seen now, shifting to things like home invasions, carjackings and the use of illegal firearms,” said Nishan Duraiappah, Chief of Police of Peel Regional Police.

Peel Region is now considered the auto theft capital of Canada, causing concern for Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown.

“Because of the funds at stake north of $1.2 billion, criminal organizations are going to extreme lengths to seize upon this,” said Brown.

More than 150 representatives from across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, including law enforcement agencies, insurance officials, auto manufacturers, and car dealers, took part in the gathering to tackle the surge in car thefts.

According to collective data from Ontario’s major police forces, there has been a 116 per cent increase in stolen vehicles since 2019.

Officials are trying to show they’re making progress. In that same time frame, they recovered more than 15,000 vehicles valued at $545 million.

However, officials want increased enforcement and screening at Canada’s major ports, especially in Montreal, Quebec, where police say many stolen vehicles end up.

“Of the autos being stolen in Ontario, 80 per cent are destined for exportation,” said Chief Duraiappah.

According to police, thieves target Peel Region because they can escape quickly on the highway system to leave the GTA.

Last year, 7,400 vehicles were stolen in Peel Region alone, averaging 617 monthly thefts. The collective data also shows there have been 185 carjackings in the past year.

There are also calls for stiffer penalties for auto theft as there are concerns many involved are part of organized crime, and they’re repeat offenders who are granted bail or do little jail time.

“Repeat violent offenders are involved in this criminal market, and they are putting officers at risk, and they are putting the public at risk,” said Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique.

According to Consumer Reports (CR), to reduce auto theft, they are advising car owners to not leave valuables that can be easily spotted in their vehicle, park in a well-lit area to make the car less of a target, use steering wheel locks and anti-theft systems to act as a deterrent. Adding a security camera and motion-sensitive flood lights to your home can also help.

“Simply having a light that turns on automatically if anyone approaches your garage can really be effective in scaring away potential thieves,” said Jeff Bartlett with CR.  

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