Collaborating to Combat Auto Theft

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair


Organized Crime Enforcement

Toronto Police investigations into vehicle theft and illegal firearms and narcotics have resulted in the arrest of seven suspects and a significant recovery and seizure of vehicles.

Projects Spectre and Paranoid yielded 48 stolen vehicles valued at approximately $3.75 million, six firearms and ammunition and 266.39 grams of cocaine.

“Project Paranoid demonstrates the resources that the Toronto Police Service is dedicating to tackling the auto theft epidemic and the positive results of this work,” said Staff Superintendent Pauline Gray. “But it also demonstrates the importance of collaboration among stakeholders to address an issue that is impacting the safety and well-being of our communities.

“The Toronto Police Service has spoken many times about the massive increase in auto thefts in Toronto and across the Greater Toronto Area and how it is contributing to an increase in home invasions, violent robberies and gun violence throughout the region. That is why we are co-leading the Provincial Carjacking Joint Task Force with the Ontario Provincial Police and in partnership with police services in York, Halton, Durham and Peel to address the rising incidents of violence.”

Commencing in April 2023 by the Service’s Integrated Gun & Gang Task Force Firearms Enforcement Unit, Project Spectre focused on a network of individuals involved in the trafficking of firearms and narcotics.

Undercover officers bought six firearms and more than 200 grams of cocaine.

As a result of information obtained during Project Spectre, members of the Organized Crime Investigative Support Unit launched Project Paranoid that focused on the trafficking, shipping and re-vinning of stolen vehicles.

“During this investigation, several businesses in the Greater Toronto Area were also identified as locations where stolen motor vehicles were stored and sold prior to being shipped overseas and or being re-vinned and registered to be sold in Ontario,” said Superintendent Steve Watts, at a news conference at the Toronto Police College on March 27.

The seven people arrested in both investigations are facing 150 charges.

“The positive results of these projects are due to the dedicated work of many members of the Toronto Police Service and our partners, and I want to thank them for their efforts,” Watts said. “The Service is committed to the safety and well-being of our residents above all else and we will continue to work in collaboration with all impacted stakeholders on finding solutions to this complex issue.”



A police officer speaks at a podium, with guns and vehicles on display around him
Superintendent Steve Watts speaks on Project Paranoid Photo: Brent Smyth



Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) along with Halton and York Regional Police Services partnered with Toronto Police on Project Paranoid.

A total of 20 of the vehicles were recovered in a joint exercise between Toronto and Halton Police while another 20 were intercepted in Toronto and Montreal with the assistance of the CBSA.

Undercover officers bought five vehicles and three were located during search warrant executions.

So far in March, the Provincial Carjacking Joint Task Force has made seven arrests, laid 34 charges and recovered 23 vehicles. In the last 48 hours, four of those arrests have been made, including a 15-year-old youth.

Last year, police services in Ontario collaborated to seize over 15,000 stolen vehicles valued at over half a billion dollars.

“That said, auto theft is among the top three revenue generators for organized crime groups and it is not an issue that police services can tackle alone,” Gray said. “The success of Project Paranoid is the result of collaboration and we will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement, government, auto manufacturing, insurance and others to collectively tackle this problem.”

The Senior Command Officer thanked TPS members for the success of the projects, particularly the Integrated Gun and Task Force- Firearms Enforcement Unit and members of the Service’s Organized Crime Investigative Support Unit for their ongoing dedication to the important work.

During Projects Spectre and Paranoid, police also recovered un-programmed fobs, laptops to re-program devices, a radio frequency detector to locate vehicles’ tracking devices, signal blockers, diagnostic tools and watches.

The individuals arrested and charged are Beka Suarishvili, Sadyk Sadykov, Igor Larionov, Ali Eren Poyraz, Vitaly Khalimov, Intizar Gasimov and Jose (Galio) Furtunato.

Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario provided funding for this Project Paranoid through the Ontario government which also provided funding through its Preventing Auto Theft (PAT) grant.

Through this grant, Equité Association offered supplemental training to Toronto Police officers focused on vehicle theft best practices.

Bryan Gast, Equité Association Vice-President of Investigative Services, said a vehicle is stolen every five minutes in Canada and that organized crime groups are targeting those in Ontario that are newer and of greater value.

Since 2020, he pointed out, auto theft claim costs have increased by 319 per cent and, for the first time, the province has experienced over $1 billion in auto theft claims costs in a single year in 2023 which is up from $700 million in 2022.

“Equité plays a significant role by helping Canadians to fight insurance crimes which include vehicle crime,” Gast said. “We accomplish this through investigative expertise and advanced analytics. Our investigators are specialized in identifying stolen vehicles, providing evidence as expert witnesses in court, assisting law enforcement when search warrants are executed and providing training.”

Gast said private-public partnerships create a more effective and efficient way of addressing the issue of auto theft by pooling resources and lending Equité's expertise.

“Auto theft is not a victimless crime,” he added. “It is not just a property crime. Beyond the financial impact of auto theft, it also seriously impacts people’s sense of safety. The majority are worried about how this alarming increase in auto theft will impact the crime rate in their communities and they are especially concerned for their personal safety and the safety of their families.

“Ontario’s auto theft problem cannot be remedied in isolation. It requires this kind of dedication and a collaborative approach through public and private partnerships to ultimately combat this crime and protect the people of Ontario.



Items seized during the investigations including vehicle diagnostics tools, laptops and key fobs.
Seized stolen key fobs, and tools used in the carjacking process Photo: Brent Smyth




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