Car theft is a global problem but Canada has one of the highest rates of car theft in the world.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2009 about 300 cars a day were stolen.
The OPP’s website says the stolen car industry is a $600 million dollar a year illicit industry in Canada – and in Ontario over 52,000 cars are stolen a year; an average of 1,000 per week.
In Wellington County car theft is not a big problem, but there are a few areas within the county that have higher rates of car theft than others.
One of the most notable is Puslinch Township, specifically two car pool lots near Highway 401.
Puslinch councillor Susan Fielding noted last week that according to county OPP officials, about one car per week, on average, is stolen from the lot near the 401 and Brock Road (Highway 6).
The location is also a prime spot for those looking to steal items out of vehicles.
A local resident asked at the Puslinch community forum on Sept. 15 if the township could convince the Ministry of Transportation to install lights at that lot, as well as another at Townline Road and the 401.
Fielding said she would contact officials with TWD Roads Management Inc., the company in charge of carrying out such work on behalf of the MTO.
“But I’m not sure lights are the answer,” she said.
Fielding noted a lot of the thefts occur during daylight because thieves assume the vehicles will be there all day.
“It is fairly well lit,” she added of the lot.
What vehicles are targets?
London and Hamilton are the two Ontario cities with the highest rates of auto theft (489 and 480 incidents respectively per 100,000 population).
But regardless of the location, economy and luxury cars alike can be targets for auto theft.
Fielding noted GMC trucks seem to be one of the more common vehicles stolen from the Brock Road/401 lot.
But the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s statistics for 2009 show the top five most stolen cars in Canada were the Honda Civic, Cadillac Escalade, Acura RSX, Acura Integra and Audi S4 Quattro.
According to the OPP, 60% are recovered in what are called transportation crimes (used and dumped). The remainder is the result of organized enterprise auto theft.
Currently 18,000 stolen vehicles are outstanding in Ontario, not including trucks, trailers or heavy equipment.
The cost of auto theft to the public is $1.2 billion dollars a year, which equates to $48 per insurance policy holder.
But far worse, police say, are the 40 to 65 deaths in Canada that are directly related to auto theft.
The OPP’s Provincial Auto Theft Team (PATT) is a standing Joint Forces Operation combining the resources of police, governmental and non-governmental agencies in a partnership to combat organized crime.
How organized auto theft works
A stolen vehicle in itself is not a profitable commodity.
In order for the criminal to realize a profit, he/she must either export the vehicle to a destination where it is no longer sought by police, chop the vehicle into parts and sell the stolen parts as legitimate components or disguise the vehicle’s identity (clone or re-vin) and sell it as “legitimate” to unsuspecting buyers.
PATT therefore focuses on auto exports, fraudulent registration or re-vinning of vehicles and chop shop operations.
There are things motorists can do to try to prevent car theft.
Always roll up windows all the way when leaving vehicle and lock it up.
Put the key in a pocket or purse as soon as the vehicle is locked. Never leave keys in the vehicle or in the ignition. It only takes a moment for someone to jump in and drive away (20% of stolen cars have keys in them.)
Drivers should keep vehicle registration and proof of insurance with them, in a wallet or purse at all times- never leave these documents in the glove box.
Never leave a parking lot claim stub in the car when parking at an airport or other large parking lot.
Do not leave valuable items such as laptops, Sports equipment or packages in clear view. Keep them in the trunk or out of sight.
Make sure to park in a well lit, busy area.
Get car parts marked. This could deter thieves, as they resell car parts and this would make your car a less attractive target.
To prevent having a car towed by thieves, park with wheels sharply turned and apply the emergency brake.
If you park in a private garage, make sure to lock both the garage and car.
As of 2007, the Canadian federal government made it mandatory for all Canadian manufacturers to install electronic immobilizers in new cars, vans, lights trucks and SUVs.
If a car doesn’t have one already, the smartest thing to do to prevent auto theft is to install an electronic immobilizer in the car that cuts all three vital circuits – the starter, the ignition and the fuel.