Toronto

This Toronto man got carjacked at gunpoint. Here's what police say you should do to stay safe

Carjackings are up sharply in Toronto this year and police are telling the public the steps they need to be safe.

There have been 182 car jackings in Toronto this year, up from 102 in 2021

Tommy Kontos was working on his computer in his Toronto home Tuesday morning when he suddenly saw the lights of his 2022 Jeep flash through his window. Minutes later, he was carjacked at gunpoint. (Michael Aitkens/CBC)

Tommy Kontos was working on his computer at his Toronto home at around 2:45 a.m on Tuesday when he suddenly saw the lights of his 2022 Jeep flash through his window.

He knew he hadn't unlocked the vehicle himself, so there was only one thing it could be: someone was trying to steal it.

"It's something that I've been hearing so much about now. I feel like I just kind of expected it," he said in an interview with CBC News.

He says he ran out his door and chased a man who was walking toward a parked vehicle, which turned out to be the getaway car. But suddenly, Kontos realized the thief wasn't working alone. His accomplice was at the wheel of his Jeep and was trying to reverse into him. Meantime, the man he'd been chasing was in the getaway vehicle pointing a firearm at him.

Before Kontos knew it, both his Jeep and the getaway vehicle were gone.

Carjackings up sharply in Toronto

Kontos is just one of a rising number of people in Toronto who've been robbed this way. So far in 2022, there have been 182 carjackings, up from 102 last year, investigators with the Toronto police hold-up squad told a news conference on Tuesday.

"We want to assure the public that every investigative avenue is being taken in our efforts to identify and arrest the perpetrators of these crimes and to put them before the courts," Inspector Richard Harris said. 

Insp. Richard Harris says police are doing everything they can to stop the rise in carjackings. 'These robberies are not only happening in our city, but across the Greater Toronto Area,' he says. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

Harris said if you find yourself in a similar situation, you should do the following to stay as safe as possible:

  •  Be aware of your surroundings.

  • Try to park in lit areas and keep your valuables out of sight.

  • Always keep doors locked.

  • Sound your alarm or call 911 if you feel threatened.

  • If someone does try to steal your vehicle, give it up — don't argue or fight.

"Your safety is worth more than a car," said Harris.

He identified areas along the Yonge Street corridor and Toronto's east and west ends as hotspots and said uniformed and plainclothes officers are patrolling those areas citywide. A  dedicated group of investigators is working solely on carjacking cases, he added.

Investigators seeking public's help

Harris said police have made 50 arrests so far this year in connection with carjackings.

But he added that investigators need the public's assistance in locating several people accused of a series of carjackings in August and September of this year.

He said three people are already in custody and police have issued a warrant for the arrest of an 18-year-old woman from York Region. She's facing one count of robbery with an offensive weapon and one count of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.

Investigators also need the public's help in locating a 20-year-old Toronto man who has allegedly breached the conditions of his release in connection with an armed carjacking last June, Harris said.  In addition, police allege a woman and two men stole vehicles at gunpoint and knifepoint in Toronto and York Region and have arrested an 18-year-old woman from York Region in connection with those cases.

Meantime, Kontos says people need to be aware of the growing threat.

"I don't think people understand the severity of the situation," he said.

"These people are organized. They have computer equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars and they're doing it late at night. They know exactly what vehicles they're going for," Kontos added.

"What are we going to do to defend ourselves against a weapon like a gun?"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Griffin Jaeger is a reporter for CBC News and a 2022 Joan Donaldson Scholar. You can reach him at griffin.jaeger@cbc.ca

now