Why Ontario thinks auto theft needs a federal approach

Car thief trying to break into a car

Ontario’s provincial government is urging a federal and multi-jurisdictional approach to combat auto theft in Canada.

In its 2023 Fall Economic Statement released Thursday, the government called for the Canada Border Services Agency, RCMP, Montreal and Halifax port authorities, as well as shipping container and rail companies, to support efforts that combat auto theft. 

“Additionally, the Ontario government is calling on the Government of Canada to make investments that increase outbound inspections at Canadian ports; examine the increased use of police pre-clearance of containers and consider the role that railway companies can play in tackling auto theft.” 

Earlier this year, the government announced an investment of $51 million to create a dedicated auto theft team led by the Ontario Provincial Police. The funding also supports auto theft prosecution teams to investigate and prosecute criminal organizations that profit from stolen vehicles. 

Ontario’s fall economic statement includes a “more dedicated effort to cracking down on the auto theft crisis” in the province, Équité Association said Thursday. 

Bryan Gast, vice president of investigative services at Équité Association, said in a press release Ontario’s auto theft problem can’t be remedied in isolation and “requires this kind of dedication and collaborative approach” to combat the crime. 

“The government is absolutely correct when it points out that auto theft is funding advanced organized crime networks and putting our communities at risk,” Gast said. “Our investigative team looks forward to continuing our close collaboration with the CBSA, port authorities, the provincial government and law enforcement agencies across the province.” 

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‘Whole-of-society’ approach

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) agreed that a “whole-of-society” approach is necessary to help end auto theft, “and joins the Ontario government in calling on all stakeholders to join the fight against this societal menace,” Amanda Dean, IBC interim vice president for Ontario, said in a statement Thursday. 

“The government’s $51 million investment to help police combat organized crime across the province, including funding to support the creation of new auto theft prosecution teams, demonstrates the province’s continued leadership on addressing this growing public safety concern,” she said. 

Gast said auto theft in Ontario is at “a crisis level,” increasing 31% year-over-year in the first half of 2023. In Quebec, auto theft rose by 17% during the same period, a survey from Équité Association found. 

Auto theft costs are also projected to break record levels established in 2022. Last year, Canadian insurers paid out more than $1 billion in claims for the first time ever, compared to just $400 million in 2018. 

As part of its efforts to crack down on auto theft, the Ontario government said it will invest $1.4 million over three years into the Greater Toronto Area-Greater Golden Horseshoe Investigative Fund to help stop the illegal export of stolen vehicles and target violent crime linked to criminal activities. 

The province will also work with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario so drivers are properly informed about the risks of auto theft. 

“Auto theft is a serious and growing challenge that is impacting jurisdictions across Canada, especially Ontario,” the government said in its fall economic statement. “It also burdens people with higher insurance premiums needed to cover the cost of stolen vehicles.” 

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Feature image by iStock.com/djedzura