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Vehicle theft at a 'critical point' in Canada, with car stolen every six minutes: report

Stolen vehicles recovered as part of Project High 5 are seen in this photograph provided by Peel Regional Police. Stolen vehicles recovered as part of Project High 5 are seen in this photograph provided by Peel Regional Police.
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A new report published by Canadian Finance and Leasing Association highlights the alarming state of vehicle theft in Canada.

In Toronto alone, there were 9,606 vehicle thefts in 2022. That's triple the amount of thefts in 2015, when 3,284 vehicles were stolen within the city.

According to the report published on Thursday, the CFLA says vehicle theft has reached a "critical point" in Canada, with data showing that in each of the past seven years, vehicle theft rates in Toronto have become progressively worse.

The group says the province of Ontario as a whole witnessed 27,495 vehicle thefts in 2021. However, only five people were charged with the offense of altering, removing, or destroying a vehicle identification number.

In addition, between 2015 and 2020, no more than four people were charged in the province in any given year.

The report highlights that vehicle theft reached its peak in 2022, making it the most notorious year in terms of stolen vehicles.

This rising crime is not limited to Toronto.

The report says that a vehicle is stolen every six minutes across the country. In fact, in 2019, 17 other metropolitan areas in Canada reported higher per capita vehicle theft rates compared to Toronto.

The report says that organized crime is the centre of the vehicle theft crisis in Canada and the profits earned from these thefts are used to finance drug trafficking, firearms, smuggling, tax evasion, money laundering and terrorism.

"Vehicle theft in Canada is rising exponentially, with organized crime becoming more adept at maintaining their revenue flow from stolen vehicles," CFLA president and CEO Michael Rothe said in a news release published on Thursday. "We urgently need public education programs on theft prevention, the re-establishment of provincial auto theft teams, and protocols for reporting financed vehicles exported through identity theft."

Vehicle theft can occur in various ways, according to the report. For instance, a vehicle left running a driveway in the winter can be swiftly stolen, and some theives use advanced techniques, remotely copying the settings of an electronic key fob and overriding the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system. This allows thieves to gain unauthorized access and start the vehicle.

Once the vehicle is stolen, criminals use different approaches including chopping into parts and selling the individual parts on the black market overseas with a new vehicle identification number. This process is known as “reVINing.”

In order to deter theft and prevent stolen vehicles from being exported overseas, the report recommends that a public education program for theft prevention must be launched along with reinstating provincial auto theft teams.

Establishing protocols for reporting financed vehicles exported through identity theft and providing reduced insurance rates for installing theft deterrent devices are also recommended by CFLA.

Reporting for this story was paid for through The Afghan Journalists in Residence Project funded by Meta.

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