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Auto theft rates rising ‘exponentially,’ reports reveal

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on September 25th, 2023

Every six minutes a vehicle is stolen across Canada.

That’s according to a new report by the Canadian Finance and Leasing Association (CFLA) which found the auto theft crisis has worsened substantially over the past seven years.

Toronto alone, for example, had 9,606 thefts in 2022, a three-fold increase compared to the 3,284 reported in 2015. And, in 2019, 17 other metropolitan areas in Canada reported higher per capita vehicle theft rates than Toronto. A total of 27,495 vehicle thefts were reported across Ontario in 2021.

The CFLA notes that despite Ontario’s high auto theft numbers, only five individuals faced charges for offences related to altering, removing, or destroying a vehicle identification number (VIN). Between 2015 and 2020, the province saw no more than four individuals charged per year for such crimes.

It’s not the only report that highlights the surge in vehicle theft rates. Another recent one by Équité Association – a group that combats insurance fraud - revealed rates have soared to unprecedented levels in 2022, resulting in more than $1 billion in losses for insurers.

Équité president and CEO Terri O’Brien said vehicle theft has reached a “national crisis” level.

For those provinces where data was available, Canadians witnessed double-digit increases of vehicle theft in 2022 (year-over-year):

  • Ontario up 48.3%
  • Quebec up 50%
  • Alberta up 18.3% (after several years of decline)
  • Atlantic Canada up 34.5%

Organized crime at core

Both reports point to organized crime as being at the core of the crisis.

“We know for certain that vehicles in Canada are being stolen by domestic and international criminal organizations,” said O’Brien. “The proceeds are then being used to finance domestic drug trafficking, arms dealing, human trafficking, and international terrorism. These crimes hurt our communities and puts Canada in the spotlight internationally as a source country for illegal trade.”

CFLA also highlighted the techniques used by thieves. It could be something as simple as taking advantage of cars left running in the driveway during the winter to more sophisticated techniques like remote copying of electronic key fob settings and overriding the vehicle’s diagnostic system. Another tactic included dismantling the stolen vehicle and selling the parts oversees with new VINs.

“Vehicle theft in Canada is rising exponentially, with organized crime becoming more adept at maintaining their revenue flow from stolen vehicles,” said CFLA president and CEO Michael Rothe. “We urgently need public education programs on theft prevention, the re-establishment of provincial auto theft teams, and protocols for reporting financed vehicles exported through identity theft.”

In May Ontario bolstered its fight against auto theft by investing $51 million in new measures to help police identify and dismantle organized crime networks and put thieves behind bars. The funding, to be delivered over three years, will support auto theft prosecution teams to investigate and prosecute criminal organizations that profit from stolen vehicles.

Layers of protection

The Équité Association report also recommends a “layered approach” as the best way for Canadians to protect themselves, their families and their vehicles. This includes:

  1. Common sense steps such as keeping your doors locked, windows closed and parking in a well lit area.
  2. Installing visible or audible anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks, alarms and window etchings.
  3. Using a vehicle immobilizer such as kill switches and wireless ignition authentication.
  4. Investing in a tracking system that can alert the owner/monitoring service the car has been stolen or one that works with the car’s GPS system and wireless technology to track the vehicle remotely.

Bryan Gast, Vice President of investigative services at Équité said: “Remember, when it comes to vehicle theft, the best offence is a good defence.”

-With files from Insurance Business


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