Vehicle thefts in Halton Hills have skyrocketed over the past few years, according to the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS).
In a presentation to Halton Hills Council on Monday, police revealed they saw a 217 per cent increase in auto thefts between 2018 and 2022, with roughly 12 vehicles being stolen every month.
“It is a huge, huge, generator of revenue for organized crime groups,” HRPS Supt. Dave Stewart told council.
Stewart emphasized “how effectively they can get these cars out of our community and to a different continent in the hands of someone else, often with the Ontario license plates still slapped on the car.”
In 2018, there were 46 reported stolen vehicles in Halton Hills. The numbers rose in the proceeding years, but still stayed stable – going up to 68 by 2020. The large increases became apparent in 2021, when thefts totalled 104, with another large jump last year, reaching 146.
Police Chief Stephen Tanner, who was also present at council, hinted at several reasons why such an uptick in auto thefts is happening, including the global chip shortage and the shortage of vehicles in general. This scarcity has caused the price of car components to skyrocket, even in the black market.
“We’re trying to purchase right now some SUV types of vehicles for the police service, and they are hard to find,” Tanner explained.
Advancements in theft technologies – key signal cloning and reprogramming of a car’s computer – have made stealing vehicles much easier, he said.
“I’ve often said it’s harder for me to sign on to my laptop in the morning than it is probably to steal a car,” Tanner added.
The overwhelming majority of the thefts last year appeared to be trucks at 69 per cent. Police say vehicle thieves went after Ram pickup trucks the most, with Fords and Jeeps following behind.
Last year, a Georgetown woman was implicated in Project MYRA, a police roundup of 214 high-end stolen vehicles totalling $12 million. In early March, a stolen Honda Civic was recovered in Etobicoke.
Despite such successes, vehicle thefts are some of the most difficult crimes to investigate, according to HRPS.
“It’s literally like a needle in a haystack,” Stewart said. He called for collaboration with manufacturers, insurance companies, federal law enforcement like Canada Border Services Agency and more.
Chief Tanner gave the traditional police advice on how to prevent vehicle thefts: keep doors locked, park another car behind more in-demand ones and use a steering wheel lock, among others.