An organized crime ring is likely behind a rash of van thefts in the city of Ottawa this winter, according to Ottawa police.

Since Jan. 1, 54 vans have been stolen in Ottawa — more than triple the number stolen over the same time period last year.

Shannon Lee Manion said her 1996 Dodge Caravan was taken from the garage of her Centretown home on Feb. 16.

"I've been robbed. And I'm not amused," said Manion, who has stapled flyers to streetlights in an effort to find her vehicle.

The van wasn't worth much in money terms, but it wasn't insured, and Manion said she hasn't been able to visit her father in Almonte since it disappeared three weeks ago.

"I was at my back door. I looked down from my window and there was a great big gaping hole where there used to be a red van. But now I have to replace it, and that's a bit of a hardship," she said.

Only 1 in 5 stolen have been recovered

Older minivans are among the easier vehicles to steal and have long been a favourite of thieves, according to police. But the numbers from this year suggest something more is at play, they say.

Last year from Jan. 1 to Mar. 7, 17 vans were reported stolen, but 13 of those vehicles were eventually found. So far this year, 54 have been reported stolen, but only 11 have been found.

Police say this suggests an organized ring is involved, as vehicles stolen by joy riders usually end up being found, while those stolen by organized rings are quickly sold for scrap metal and never seen again.

"For now the investigation seems to lead that there may be a ring involving in the theft of minivans," said Ottawa police Cst. Marc Sousy. "That's what we are looking at solving right now."