The Ontario government is fighting auto theft by investing $51 million in new measures to help police identify and dismantle organized crime networks and put thieves behind bars. The funding will support first-of-its kind auto theft prosecution teams to investigate and prosecute criminal organizations that profit from stolen vehicles.
“With vehicle thefts and car jackings on the rise, our government is taking bold action against a serious and often violent crime where high-tech criminals operate in tightly organized networks,” said Solicitor General Michael Kerzner. “These measures are aimed at taking crime organizations apart and bringing these criminals to justice.”
The investment will be delivered over three years and includes:
The creation of an Organized Crime Towing and Auto Theft Team led by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP):
Drawing upon the experience and success of the province’s towing joint force operation, the Organized Crime Towing and Auto Theft Team will work with police services to identify, disrupt and dismantle organized crime networks participating in vehicle theft.
A new community safety grant that targets auto theft:
Starting this year, OPP, municipal and First Nations police services will be eligible to apply for funding for extra tools, supports and resources to fight and prevent auto theft in their communities. Funding can be used for public education and awareness campaigns or technology to assist police with surveillance and identification of stolen vehicles.
Creation of a new Major Auto Theft Prosecution Response Team:
This team will provide dedicated legal and prosecutorial support to the OPP to prepare and prosecute complex cases, with corresponding court support staff and resources.
“We need a strong approach across the justice sector to stop the rise in auto thefts across Ontario,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “Today’s investments will support the creation of dedicated auto theft prosecution teams and enhanced court resources to investigate and prosecute criminal organizations, and ensure justice is served. Our auto theft focus will support our ongoing efforts to ensure communities remain safe and that we hold offenders accountable.”
To help stop the illegal export of stolen vehicles and target violent crime linked to criminal organizations, the Ontario government is also investing $1.4 million over three years in the Greater Toronto Area-Greater Golden Horseshoe Investigative Fund. This funding will continue to provide eligible police services with the resources they need, including cutting-edge technology.
Additionally, as part of the Guns and Gangs Violence Reduction Strategy, Ontario will continue to target organized crime that fuels gang operations, such as vehicle theft rings, through a further $13.4 million investment this year. Funding will support a guns and gangs joint forces operation led by the OPP to increase intelligence sharing and enforcement across multiple jurisdictions, as well as a provincial guns and gangs support unit to assist with investigations and prosecutions.
The Ontario government is also taking further action against auto theft by exploring opportunities to work in partnership with Canada Border Services Agency, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and shipping container and rail companies.
In Ontario, a car is stolen every 48 minutes.
From 2014 to 2021, there was a 72 per cent increase in auto theft across the province, and a 14 per cent increase in the last year alone.
Thieves and criminal networks have specifically targeted the Greater Toronto Area:
In Toronto, auto thefts increased 81 per cent from 2014 to 2021 and the city experienced a 78 per cent increase in violent carjackings from 2021 to 2022.
In Peel Region, carjackings have risen 45 per cent since 2021.
From 2021 to 2022, auto thefts in Halton Region increased by approximately 49 per cent, with Oakville and Burlington hardest hit.