IBC calls for feds to lead national auto theft task force

Car thief in action late at night, wearing a black mask on his head

Canada’s auto insurers say the country needs a National Task Force on Stolen Vehicles, and they are calling on the federal government to play a leadership role in tackling record-high auto thefts. 

While the feds should lead the charge, auto theft is an all-hands-on-deck issue, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) suggests in release. 

Auto theft across Canada tallied more than $1.2 billion worth of claims for the insurance industry last year. And thefts in 2023 are trending even higher than the year before, Equite Association’s vice president of investigative services, Bryan Gast, recently told Canadian Underwriter. Auto theft in Ontario and Quebec increased by 31% and 17% year-over-year respectively, in the first half of 2023. 

Specifically in Toronto, vehicle thefts surpassed break-ins as the second-most-common crime, up from the previous year. 

Outside of the sheer cost of these auto thefts, these incidents also threaten public safety, IBC says. These vehicles are often stolen by criminals in incidents of violent carjacking. At the same time, earnings from the thefts are being used to fund organized crime. 

In eastern Canada, vehicles tend to be stolen for overseas export, due to the close proximity to ports, Gast said. “It has a lot to do with the high population of Ontario and Quebec, and the number of concentrated areas of higher-value vehicles in the GTA.” In Alberta and western Canada, cars tend to be stolen with the intent of being sold for parts, or re-vinned and resold.  

IBC, along with Ontario’s Big City Mayors and Canada’s Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety, have called for a coordinated response to address the auto theft crisis. 

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“The Task Force should convene key experts and stakeholders to validate a suite of solutions needed to reduce vehicle theft in the near-term and ensure they are implemented in coordination,” IBC wrote in a release. “Solutions should be ‘whole-of-society,’ with a focus on what all orders of government and the private sector need to execute in collaboration.”  

IBC adds the Canadian Border and Services Agency (CBSA) and provincial law enforcement should be immediately empowered to stop the outflow of stolen vehicles from Canada’s ports. It would require the federal government to allocate resources to CBSA via the 2024 federal budget.  

“They must also begin the process of modernizing Canada’s badly outdated vehicle standards, which have not been updated since 2007, before keyless and remote start technologies were introduced,” IBC wrote.  

Also, IBC says, auto manufacturers are responsible for updating technologies and equipping vehicles with modern and effective anti-theft safety devices. These efforts will make cars harder to steal from the get-go.  

Earlier, IBC’s president and CEO Celyeste Power said governments and auto manufacturers need to help auto insurers combat this trend in auto theft.  

“Auto theft is completely out of control,” Power said at the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario’s IBAOcon’23. “Right now, in my opinion, the insurance industry is the only [one] doing anything about it.” 

She referred to insurers across Canada who have introduced premium surcharges and new rating variables for drivers of high-theft vehicles. 

To that point, IBC is encouraging insurers to remain proactive by educating vehicle owners about auto theft trends and creating incentives for customers to install tracking devices.  

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Feature image by iStock.com/South_agency