The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association said it is thankful for the commitment of the Ontario government and the province’s police to crack down on the escalation of car theft following the results last week of a Toronto Police Service sting to curb the problem.
The operation, dubbed Project Stallion, recovered 1,080 vehicles, many of them high-end and valued at more than $60 million. It resulted in 553 charges laid against 228 people. The investigation ran from November 2022 to September 2023 and focused on two specific areas in the west end of Toronto. Last May, the Provincial Government committed $51 million over three years to curtail auto theft.
“Big picture, CADA is very appreciative of the attention and focus that Ontario police agencies as a whole and the Ford government has put on to stopping the scourge of auto theft,” said CADA Director of Public Affairs Huw Williams in an interview with Canadian auto dealer. “There’s a real shift in recognition that since 2018 auto theft has been completely out of control in Canada, in particular Ontario and Quebec.”
Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw and Toronto police Superintendent Ron Taverner spoke about the findings of the investigation to assure residents that police are continuing to act against rising auto theft in the city.
“Auto thefts are becoming increasingly violent and high risk,” said Demkiw. “Whether it be carjackings, home invasions, assaults or other forms of intimidation, the level of violence used in the commission of these crimes represents a new and evolving threat to public safety.”
Taverner said the vehicles have been stolen from residential homes and public places. While dealerships were not noted specifically as targets, Williams said there have been stolen vehicles from lots.
“We’ve had multiple, multiple hits on dealerships, though dealers are working hard to harden those targets up,” said Williams. “But (they) have a big inventory sitting out there. It’s an appetizing target for organized crime. When consumers see particular cars are being targeted or even new vehicles generally, there’s a hesitancy to buy cars. That undercuts the entire sales process. As organized crime is allowed to flourish, this leads to an entire system that isn’t conducive for business to operate.”
Frank Romeo, President of Pine View Auto Group, said one of his dealerships had a car stolen from the service department. He said dealerships could be subject to increasing auto theft now that more new vehicles are being supplied following the drop-off due to the supply chain shortage.
“We’re very concerned about the auto theft problem because it’s escalating,” said Romeo. “We’ve been kind of guarded from it because we haven’t had a lot of inventory, so there’s been no stock for anybody to steal new vehicles, but that’s starting to change now. I’m concerned we’re going to see an escalation in thefts from our dealer lots.”
Williams said the results of Project Stallion are indicative of why the federal government needs to become more vigilant about cracking down on existing laws specifically aimed at auto theft.
“Last week’s bust is a good example — and there’s been others — that shows just how deep this runs in criminal organizations, and this is why we need to see greater action at the federal level in terms of the activity and enforcement at the Canada Border Services Agency,” said Williams. “These cars are not being stolen for joy riding in Canada. They are being stolen for export.”