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Vehicle theft soared in 2022, led by Quebec and Ontario: report

Vehicle theft has become a national crisis, said Équité Association president and CEO Terri O'Brien
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A long row of unsold cars at a dealership in Highlands Ranch, Colo., on June 7, 2020. A non-profit organization says in a report that in 2022, the Canadian insurance industry lost more than a billion dollars for the first time on vehicle theft claims. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, David Zalubowski

TORONTO — Vehicle theft in multiple provinces surged last year, according to insurance industry group Équité Association.

The non-profit association, which focuses on the prevention of insurance fraud and crime, said in a report that the Canadian insurance industry lost more than a billion dollars for the first time on vehicle theft claims in 2022. 

Vehicle theft was up by 50 per cent in Quebec year over year, by 48.3 per cent in Ontario, by 34.5 per cent in Atlantic Canada and by 18.3 per cent in Alberta.

Vehicle theft has become a national crisis, said Équité Association president and CEO Terri O'Brien in a press release Tuesday. 

"We know for certain that vehicles in Canada are being stolen by domestic and international criminal organizations," said O'Brien, adding, "These crimes hurt our communities, and puts Canada in the spotlight internationally as a source country for illegal trade."

Cars are often either exported or "re-vinned," which means the Vehicle Identification Number has been changed, said the association, adding that the profit margins for stolen vehicles are high, while supply chain issues have contributed to a domestic market for re-vinned vehicles. 

The national vehicle recovery rate was 57 per cent, with higher rates in Atlantic Canada and Alberta, the report said. 

The organization said that most of the stolen vehicles in Quebec and Ontario are newer, because organized crime rings are focusing on new and luxury vehicles for maximum profit overseas.  

It noted the lower recovery rates in Ontario and Quebec, at 45 per cent and 34 per cent respectively, saying this suggests vehicles stolen in those provinces are primarily being exported overseas or sold domestically. 

New Brunswick saw the most vehicle thefts among the Atlantic provinces at 55 per cent, which the association said the province may be related to its geographical location, bordering both Quebec and the U.S. 

Équité Association vice-president of investigative services Bryan Gast said in the press release that the techniques employed by those stealing vehicles are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated.

The association recommends a "layered approach" to protecting your car. The first layer is made up of the basics, such as keeping your car locked, never leaving your keys in the ignition and parking your vehicle in a well-lit area.

The second layer involves visible or audible anti-theft devices, such as alarms, locks for the steering wheel or brake pedal, and identification markets in or on the vehicle. The third layer involves a vehicle immobilizer such as smart keys or wireless ignition authentication, and the fourth layer is a tracking system for use in the event of a theft. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2023.

The Canadian Press