Bold Partnerships Needed to Fight Auto Theft
Chief Myron Demkiw and Deputy Chief Rob Johnson represented Toronto Police Service at the National Summit on Combatting Auto Theft on February 8 in Ottawa.
“Now is the time to be bold in developing partnerships with manufacturers, engineering experts and others to harness rapidly developing technology and enable the talent in our country to find solutions,” said Demkiw. “Whether we are discussing making vehicles harder to steal or making ports more secure from exploitation, governments and private sector must come together like never before."
The event brought together provincial, territorial and municipal government officials, industry leaders and law enforcement members from across Canada.
In his presentation, Demkiw said Toronto has experienced a dramatic spike in auto thefts, far more than any other Canadian city.
There were 12,000 vehicles stolen in the city last year. That is about 34 vehicles stolen daily or every 40 minutes.
Since 2018, Toronto Police has recovered 46 per cent of stolen vehicles, totaling more than 20,000. They have also arrested 1,300 offenders and laid over 5,000 charges.
“Like other crimes facilitated by organized crime networks, it is borderless and what may begin in Toronto can victimize those in surrounding cities and beyond,” said Demkiw. “We know these stolen vehicles often wind up leaving Toronto, ending up sold around the world by organized crime groups.”
Noting that vehicle theft is a lucrative business because the demand is incredibly high, the Chief said criminals migrate towards an easy payday.
“With little skill and few consequences, one can steal a vehicle and get cash in return,” he said.
“Today, I am very concerned about the escalation of violence, threats and intimidation where all sorts of weapons and firearms are being used to steal vehicles. I am also concerned about the ability of the justice system to deal with repeat offenders. Whether it is a carjacking or home invasion, criminals are becoming increasingly brazen in their efforts to steal these vehicles and causing residents across Toronto an incredible amount of fear and anxiety.”
Auto theft occurrences for home invasions and break and enters rose 300 per cent last year with a total of 202 incidents.
There has also been a significant rise in carjackings with 233 occurrences reported in 2023 which is over 50 per cent of all incidents reported in the Greater Toronto Area.
Because of the dramatic spike, a Provincial Carjacking Joint Task Force was established.
“The Task Force is an excellent example of how working together with other law enforcement agencies and government agencies helps us in these complex investigations to disrupt this criminal element,” noted Demkiw.
He said that making a long-term impact in the rising number of auto thefts and the increasing violence will require a national strategy and collaboration with many sectors beyond law enforcement.
“We need all levels of government, law enforcement 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,” Demkiw said. “We welcome all efforts by manufacturers to better protect vehicles from being stolen and importantly providing timely support to our investigators so we can apprehend offenders and return vehicles to their owners.
“We also need to be bold on justice reform and work across all sectors to tackle repeat offenders and return a sense of safety to our communities. Vehicle theft is an epidemic in this country – 12,000 cars amount to $790 million in Toronto alone this past year. It causes fear and anxiety and supports organized crime. It hurts everyone.”
In a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario’s Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said action is needed immediately to combat the problem.
“It is just not the technology and the artificial intelligence,” he said. “There is a lot that can happen today, specifically at the ports and the railyard with respect to the outgoing containers. The Government of Ontario will work with our federal, territorial and provincial counterparts to keep not only our province safe, but to work to keep all of Canada safe.”
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the federal together is committed to working together with law enforcement and other stakeholders to come up with solutions to the alarming spike in vehicle thefts.
“We took the time together to take into consideration the growing problem of car theft,” he said. “Everywhere in Canada, incidents are becoming more and more violent. This comes from organized crime. We have heard several of our friends in law enforcement talk about the increase in violence.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government will look at ways to bring down insurance costs and reduce rates for owners that include offering car incentives to car owners who invest in powerful anti-theft devices.
“The bottom line is we all need to be creative to stop these crimes from happening,” said the PM. “There is an awful lot to talk about today and seeing people from so many different sectors come together to address this growing problem is going to be reassuring for Canadians. The big part of it is when we actually deliver things that are going to prevent people’s cars from being stolen.”