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Feds to hold auto theft summit in early February

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on February 1st, 2024

Political leaders, police, border agents and auto industry executives will soon meet to try and develop better ways to slow the growth in auto theft plaguing most major Canadian cities.

The National Summit on Combatting Auto Theft will take place in Ottawa on Feb. 8, Public Safety Canada announced recently.

“Auto theft is a growing criminal phenomenon that impacts Canadians from coast-to-coast,” François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry, said in the Public Safety Canada announcement.

“It is essential that we tackle this problem in collaboration with a range of stakeholders, including governments at all levels, industry, and law enforcement. By bringing together all the key players, the National Summit on Combatting Auto Theft will be an opportunity to identify solutions and actions that we can take to stamp out this scourge.”

It is hoped the summit will help to identify short and longer-term solutions.

The announcement comes as car theft has become a bigger problem across the country, with regular reports of cars disappearing from driveways and street corners in record numbers.

Auto insurers say more than 80,000 vehicles across Canada have been stolen over the past year. The industry paid out $1.2 billion in auto theft claims last year and is widely anticipated to be a key player at the summit.

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reports the regional, year-over-year increase of auto theft across Canada in 2022 as follows: Ontario (+48.3%); Quebec (+50%); Alberta (+18.3%, after several years of decline); and Atlantic Canada (+34.5%)

“Ontario has been hit especially hard, with over $700 million in losses province-wide in 2022, and over $500 million worth of vehicles stolen in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) alone,” IBC notes.

And targets aren't just parked cars, but ones where drivers are still behind the wheel.

Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs, said “one of the things that concerns all of us is it's becoming a violent crime where people are assaulted in the process of stealing vehicles.

"So we think it's an important opportunity for us to work with partners across the country and take action to deal with something that's increasingly becoming a concern."

Toronto-area police services say there was a 104-per-cent increase in carjackings between 2021 and 2022.

The government said gangs steal cars and work with organized-crime groups to send them to the Middle East and Africa or use them within Canada to commit crimes before destroying them.

Photos have appeared online of cars still bearing Canadian licence plates in used-car lots overseas.

That's despite Ottawa insisting it has strong laws aimed at preventing thefts and tracking protocols meant to stop the stolen cars from being exported in shipping containers.

Meanwhile, insurers have already been experimenting with lowering premiums for people willing to install tracking and other security devices in their vehicles. They have also offered to subsidize consumer investments to increase vehicle security.

IBC acknowledges its own role in educating consumers about how to protect vehicles against theft. They recommend other solutions requiring cooperation with multiple government and industry sectors.

First, IBC says, stop vehicles from being stolen in the first place. The trade association for auto insurers lists several measures to do this:

  • “Auto manufacturers must equip vehicles with modern and effective anti-theft safety devices,” IBC says on its website. “The current anti-theft deterrent standard that federal regulations require manufacturers to adhere to was first implemented in 2007. It has not been updated since, despite the widespread adoption of modern technologies such as keyless, push-to-start ignition. This has rendered the current standard outdated and leaves vehicles vulnerable to theft.”
  • “In Ontario, the government can tighten up provincial vehicle registrations. All provinces should provide more resources for coordinated, inter-agency enforcement.”
  • “All provinces can bolster law enforcement capacities.”

Second, Ottawa needs to tighten border controls.

“Public Safety Canada should invest in the Canada Border Services Agency to improve controls at ports and borders, and require all vehicles set for permanent export to be presented for inspection 72 hours prior to departure,” IBC says.

Also, “the Royal Canadian Mounted Police should facilitate the upload of Canadian Police Information Centre data to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).”

  • With files from Canadian Press and Canadian Underwriter


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