Thieves stole 4,000-plus cars in Toronto last year, shipped luxury vehicles overseas

There’s been a dramatic increase in the number of automobiles being stolen across the GTA but both police and the Insurance Bureau of Canada say owners are making it too easy for thieves to make off with their vehicles.

Honda, Toyota, 2 most popular vehicles stolen across Toronto, police say

Police say Toronto is experiencing a 29 per cent increase in the theft of automobiles. (Surrey RCMP )

There's been a dramatic increase in the number of automobiles being stolen across the GTA but both police and the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) say owners are making it too easy for thieves to make off with their vehicles.

On Tuesday, the IBC, a national association that represents Canada's private auto insurers, reported auto theft is up six per cent across the country in its annual report looking at the country's most frequently stolen vehicles.

It's becoming a pandemic in our city.- Det. Sgt. Daniel Sabadics

"At 53 Division, which is part of central district, we've noticed year-to-date, a 92 per cent increase in stolen autos. It's becoming a pandemic in our city," Toronto Police Det. Sgt. Daniel Sabadics said at a news conference Thursday.

"The city itself is experiencing a 29 per cent increase in the theft of autos. What that boils down to is about 1,000 more stolen autos this year, year-to-date than last year — up from 3,200 to 4,200."

Sabadics said Honda and Toyota are the two most popular makes among thieves across Toronto.

Det. Sgt. Daniel Sabadics of Toronto Police 53 Division says Honda and Toyota are the two most popular makes to be stolen across Toronto. (CBC)

In the central and north central districts — from Bloor Street north to Steeles Avenue, and the Don River west to Bathurst Street — police found there was an increase in thefts of luxury autos.

"We found that the [top four] luxury autos that were driving these numbers up were Lexus, Toyota, Mercedes and Land Rover," Sabadics said.

"In central district we had a 240 per cent increase year-to-date from last year. In north central district — Lawrence to Steeles — 45 per cent increase; and across Toronto for those four makes, a 90 per cent increase."

Thieves very sophisticated

Investigators have found that the majority of the vehicles were stolen via an electronic override.

In some instances, police say the thieves clone the key fob itself then enter the vehicle and drive it away with a newly programmed fob.

Another electronic override method is accessing the car's onboard diagnostic port using a computer brought to the scene of the theft. The criminals program a new fob or a new key and  use it to steal the car.

The IBC has released certain recommendations to help auto owners protect themselves against theft.

Det. Sgt. Daniel Sabadics of Toronto Police 53 Division says simple fixes like a steering wheel club can serve as a deterrent to car thieves. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

But Sabadics said there are some very simple fixes, ranging in price from $80 to $200, that can serve as a deterrent to car thieves. These include:

  • A steering wheel club.
  • A wheel boot chock.
  • OBD port locks.
  • Aftermarket ignition kill switch.
  • Intelligent Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) immobilizer.
  • Aftermarket alarm systems.

Additionally, Sabadics is urging people who own garages to use them.

"Park it in a garage. If you have a garage, clear it of clutter and use it. Out of sight, out of mind," he said.

Stolen vehicles being shipped overseas

The IBC's director of external communications Steve Kee said he is pleased to see that Toronto police are raising awareness about these issues.

He said some of the luxury vehicles being stolen in Ontario are being shipped overseas.

"In Ontario, you tend to have some of the higher-end SUVs that are being stolen . . . and many of them are shipped out of the country, hence not finding something immediately," Kee said. 

"It's probably in a container and going to some of the overseas markets," Kee explained.

The IBC’s director of external communications Steve Kee says some of the luxury vehicles being stolen in Ontario are being shipped overseas. (CBC)

Despite the prevalence of automobile thefts, Kee says he sees people on a daily basis stopping at coffee shops or gas stations and leaving vehicles running.

"At this time of year in particular, everyone's focus just seems to be a little bit off. So, whether running around shopping for the holidays or getting ready to go away on vacation, we're almost telegraphing to thieves and making it easy for them," Kee said.

"So for the most part, while there are sophisticated tools and we acknowledge that that is a growing trend, often these are thefts by opportunity. And by opportunity, we're making things easy," he said.

"I think we can simply say, if we take that extra vigilance and don't become that creature of habit, that we can prevent some of these things from happening."

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