Car thefts are on the rise in Canada. The Port of Montreal is a major transportation hub

The stolen vehicles were transported overseas via the busy port of Montreal. (Representative image)

Montreal Canada:

Montreal resident Zachary Siciliani recently discovered his car had simply disappeared – possibly following a series of vehicle thefts in Canada.

A crime trend that the Insurance Bureau of Canada is calling a “national crisis” is stolen vehicles being shipped through the busy port of Montreal to car dealerships overseas for sale.

Siciliani told AFP there were no signs of forced entry at the scene. So he thinks the thieves probably used a device that captures and copies the operating frequency of the electronic keys used to open the car doors and start the engine, then simply left.

“The emergence of auto-ignition technology has brought a level of convenience to vehicle users and drivers, but has also enabled organized crime groups to steal vehicles,” Detective Scott told AFP Wade of the Ontario Provincial Police.

In recent months, thousands of vehicles have been stolen in major cities in Quebec and Ontario, the country’s two most populous provinces.

Most of them go to Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Some have been discovered by the police or by courageous owners thanks to tracking sensors installed in their cars and trucks.

According to the latest police data, Montreal and Toronto are the most frequently attacked areas.

In Toronto, car and light truck thefts from 2021 to 2023 increased by 150 percent compared to the previous six years. During the same period, thefts increased by 58 percent in Quebec and 48 percent in Ontario.

Cars are mostly stolen from driveways at night while their owners sleep, but some are captured at gunpoint.

In one case, a tow truck driver in Ottawa was arrested for attempting to steal a vehicle parked on a downtown street in broad daylight.

Big insurance payout

Experts say the crime wave has its roots in the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, when public health restrictions effectively limited the number of vehicles produced.

The ensuing disruption of global supply chains created “very high demand while supply is at an all-time low,” Montreal police spokesperson Yannick Desmarais told AFP.

Wade said most thefts were now carried out by organized crime networks aimed at “supplying foreign markets”.

According to Federal Police data, in 2023 the number of car thefts committed by organized criminal groups increased by 62% compared to the previous year.

This year, insurers paid a total of C$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) in stolen vehicle claims in Canada, an increase of 254 percent from 2018.

According to Desmarais, most stolen vehicles pass through the port of Montreal.

“Montreal is like a sieve,” said Georges Iny, director of the Automobile Protection Association, a consumer rights group.

Located on the banks of the Sainte-Marie River, Lawrence, Canada’s second largest city, is also one of the country’s major Atlantic ports, “connecting eastern Canada and the industrial heartland of North America to more than 140 countries,” Iny said.

“The challenge is to intercept this small fraction of prohibited goods without harming our economy by slowing down trade,” said Annie Beauséjour, regional director of the Canada Border Services Agency in Quebec, stressing that more than one million containers pass through Canadian ports. Montreal every year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, which held a summit on car theft with police a few weeks ago, has pledged to crack down on the illegal sale and use of computer hacking devices.

He also announced tougher penalties for car thieves and more resources for Canadian border agencies.

Meanwhile, in both Toronto and Montreal, groups are proliferating on social media to try to help owners detect stolen cars.

However, users often point out to new theft victims that their car may have been long lost in a container destined for a used car lot in another country.

Siciliani now owns another Mazda 3, but he protects it with a tracker.

“Our insurance company told us our rates would go up significantly if we didn’t have this device in our car,” he said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

Robert Butler

"Bacon aficionado. Hardcore twitter enthusiast. Hipster-friendly pop culture expert. Student. Certified beer buff."

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