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For car thieves, Toronto is a hot spot, and drivers are fed up

While there has been a surge in car thefts across Canada — up 24% in 2022, the most recent year nationwide statistics were available — the scourge has hit the Toronto area particularly hard, creating a mix of paranoia, vigilance and resentment.
Last Updated : 24 February 2024, 20:54 IST
Last Updated : 24 February 2024, 20:54 IST

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Toronto: Whenever Dennis Wilson wants to take a drive in his new SUV, he has to set aside an extra 15 minutes. That’s about how long it takes to remove the car’s steering wheel club, undo four tyre locks and lower a yellow bollard before backing out of his driveway in a modest neighborhood in Toronto.

But Wilson is convinced Toronto’s seasoned auto thieves won’t be deterred, and that they’ll inevitably make off with this Honda CR-V just as they did with its predecessor — and its insurance replacement, which they returned to steal.

“By no means do I think that I’ve stopped them,” Wilson said. “All I’ve done is made it take an extra 10 minutes to steal my car.”

While there has been a surge in car thefts across Canada — up 24 per cent in 2022, the most recent year nationwide statistics were available — the scourge has hit the Toronto area particularly hard, creating a mix of paranoia, vigilance and resentment.

Car thefts in Canada’s largest city are so pervasive — up 150 per cent in the past six years — that the issue has become something of a common bond among vehicle owners. If not a victim themselves of a theft, or thefts, many people seem to know someone whose car was swiped.

Social media groups have formed to crowdsource help for car sightings. But the comments are filled with people telling owners to resign themselves to the fact that their car is probably already in a shipping container headed overseas.

“Organized crime is becoming more brazen, and the international black market for the stolen cars is expanding,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking this month in Ottawa at a hastily convened auto theft summit.

The meeting was intended to reassure Canadians that the government was aware of the issue and that it was considering a number of responses, including increasing penalties for auto thieves, investing in the border agency and banning imports of key fob hacking devices.

The government is not only aware of the problem, it also hasn’t been spared: Two government-issued Toyota Highlanders were stolen three times in Ottawa from the current and previous justice ministers.

Car thefts have escalated to “national crisis” levels, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, an industry group, which said insurers paid out a record 1.2 billion Canadian dollars ($890 million) in theft claims in 2022.

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Published 24 February 2024, 20:54 IST

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