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Liberals aim to hit the brakes on car theft with new criminal offences

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OTTAWA -

The federal government is going after car thieves in its latest budget, which proposes several new Criminal Code offences specific to auto thefts.

The Liberals are proposing new charges for the use of violence while stealing a vehicle and for links to organized crime, as well as laundering money for the benefit of a criminal organization.

They're also planning to make it illegal to own or sell the electronic and digital devices police say are being commonly used to steal cars.

A new aggravating factor will be created for thieves who involve a youth in their operation.

These specific changes were proposed after a national auto theft summit was held in early February, bringing together police, governments, municipalities and private-sector partners to tackle the growing problem.

An estimated 90,000 cars are stolen each year in Canada and many of the thefts involve organized crime.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada paid out around $1.2 billion in claims in 2022, a record high. That year, vehicle thefts rose by 50 per cent in Quebec and almost as much in Ontario.

The government earmarked $28 million in February to help stop the export of stolen vehicles, most of which are destined for Africa and the Middle East.

The money aims to give the Canada Border Services Agency more capacity to detect and search containers.

Insurers say the majority of the vehicles are being stolen from Ontario and Quebec and exported through the busy Port of Montreal.

Around 1.7 million containers moved through the port last year, including 70 per cent of Canada's legal vehicle exports, according to port authorities.

An operation led by the Ontario Provincial Police searched 400 shipping containers at the port between December and March, and turned up 598 stolen vehicles.

Insurance fraud prevention group Equite Association said the top three targets for thieves are Honda CR-Vs, the latest Dodge RAM 1500 series and Ford F150s.

The budget also contains a promise to amend the Radiocommunications Act to regulate the sale, possession, distribution and import of the types of electronic devices being used to steal cars.

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