Auto thefts are on the rise across Canada, and the country’s largest city is no exception.

Toronto police said Thursday that reports of stolen vehicles in that city had increased by nearly 30 per cent between 2017 and 2018, with similar increases seen across the Greater Toronto Area. Most of the thefts involve vehicles being stolen while parked outside homes overnight.

“It’s becoming pandemic in our city,” Det.-Sgt. Daniel Sabadics said at a press conference.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, auto theft had been steadily declining until 2015. It has been a growing problem since then, largely because criminals have found new ways to hijack vehicles.

Sabadics said electronic override thefts, which involve thieves exploiting the wireless link between vehicles and keyless entry fobs, has become a method of choice for vehicle thieves.

“That technology is almost like an Achilles heel,” he said.

Thieves can get close enough to a house to intercept and copy the signal between a vehicle and a fob – the so-called relay theft – or physically break into the vehicle and then use its on-board diagnostic system and other software to give a new fob permission to control the vehicle.

High-end vehicles are particularly at risk for this variety of theft, Sabadics said. Lexus, Mercedes and Land Rover vehicles have all seen significant increases in their theft rates in recent years.

Sabadics offered a number of tips for people to protect their vehicles against such thefts, saying anything that makes a vehicle more difficult to steal will make it a less likely target.

“The thief will naturally go to the path of least resistance.”

His suggestions included purchasing devices that disable a vehicle’s ignition system or on-board computers, parking in secured garages and installing aftermarket car alarms rather than relying on the alarms mass-produced by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

“Anything aftermarket or dealer-installed, it’s unique to the customer … so it’s a little more confusing [to thieves],” he said.

Sabadics also urged drivers to check their vehicle’s manual for anti-theft measures they may not realize they have. He said many manufacturers’ fobs are programmed so that if a certain sequence of buttons is pressed, the fob stops emitting its signal until another button is pressed.

Many stolen vehicles are quickly and discreetly shipped overseas, Sabadics said, making them much more difficult for police to track.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada released its latest list of the most-stolen vehicles in the country earlier this week. Ford F-Series pickup trucks topped the list.