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Insurers welcome Ontario’s $18M grant to fight auto theft

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on December 6th, 2023

Ontario is investing $18 million over three years to help police combat and prevent auto theft.

The Preventing Auto Thefts (PAT) grant will provide funding for 21 projects featuring new and enhanced crime-fighting measures focused on prevention, detection, analysis and enforcement, the province announced recently.

The funding was welcomed by Ontario’s auto insurers.

“Last year marked the first time in history when Canada’s insurers paid over $1 billion in claims for stolen vehicles,” Amanda Dean, interim vice president of Ontario for the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), said in a public statement following the announcement.

Funding for police projects includes:

  • Acquiring specialized resources, including surveillance equipment, software and GPS tracking devices
  • Providing specialized training to police investigators to enhance skillsets specific to auto theft
  • Creating new units dedicated to auto theft, including cross-jurisdictional units that will serve more than one police service to break down silos and address organized criminal activity
  • Expanding data collection and analysis efforts to capture more metrics on the linkage to organized crime and other criminal activity
  • Fostering partnerships with organizations such as the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Canadian Automobile Association, as well as local car dealerships to share information and resources and to help in the development of effective prevention strategies and public education campaigns.

“This investment will help our police services crack down on the growing problem of auto theft, dismantle organized crime networks and get these criminals off the streets and behind bars where they belong,” said Premier Doug Ford in a news release. “Our government is making the necessary investments so that our police officers have the tools they need to keep people and communities safe.”

Ontario pledged to crack down on auto fraud in both its 2022 and 2023 budgets, although no fixed dollar value had been attached to it until now.

“Every 14 minutes a vehicle is stolen in Ontario, and this investment will give police services the tools they need to successfully fight auto theft across the province,” said Solicitor General Michael Kerzner in the release.

In addition, IBC has urged the federal government to create a National Task Force on Stolen Vehicles while the Ford government is pushing the Feds to play a leadership role in tackling auto fraud. The task force would include key experts and stakeholders affected by auto fraud to come up with solutions for tracking auto thefts nationally and preventing the outflow of stolen vehicles from Canada’s ports.

IBC stated the Canadian Border and Services Agency (CBSA) and provincial law enforcement should be immediately empowered to stop the outflow of stolen vehicles from Canada’s ports. It would require the federal government to allocate resources to CBSA in the 2024 federal budget.

“They must also begin the process of modernizing Canada’s badly outdated vehicle standards, which have not been updated since 2007, before keyless and remote start technologies were introduced,” IBC said.

Also, IBC says, auto manufacturers are responsible for updating technologies and equipping vehicles with modern and effective anti-theft safety devices. These efforts will make cars harder to steal.

In a panel discussion at the National Insurance Conference of Canada in Montreal in September, Aviva Canada’s managing director of personal lines, Susan Penwarden, said the average claims cost attributable to auto fraud sits at about $70,000 per vehicle stolen.

For consumers, who bear these additional costs in their policy premiums, “that’s an average of $125 per policy,” Penwarden said.

Auto theft across Canada tallied more than $1.2 billion worth of claims for the insurance industry last year. And thefts in 2023 are trending even higher than the year before, Equite Association’s vice president of investigative services, Bryan Gast, recently told Canadian Underwriter. Auto theft in Ontario and Quebec increased by 31% and 17% year-over-year respectively, in the first half of 2023.

Specifically in Toronto, vehicle thefts surpassed break-ins as the second-most-common crime, up from the previous year.

Outside of the sheer cost of these auto thefts, these incidents also threaten public safety, IBC says. These vehicles are often stolen by criminals in incidents of violent carjacking. At the same time, earnings from thefts are being used to fund organized crime.

In eastern Canada, vehicles tend to be stolen for overseas export due to the close proximity to ports, Gast said. “It has a lot to do with the high population of Ontario and Quebec, and the number of concentrated areas of higher-value vehicles in the GTA.” In Alberta and western Canada, cars tend to be stolen with the intent of being sold for parts, or re-vinned and resold.

In October, Ontario's Big City Mayors and Canada's Ministers for Justice and Public Safety also joined the chorus calling for a co-ordinated response to tackle the auto theft crisis.

  • With files from Canadian Underwriter


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