80 vehicles recovered in York Region auto theft enforcement initiative

Image capture from York Regional Police Operation Auto Guard ride along video. York Regional Police / YouTube

York Regional Police say an enforcement initiative has resulted in several people being charged and dozens of recovered vehicles.

Police said the seven-week initiative launched in September called Operation Auto Guard resulted in 56 people being charged with 284 offences and 80 vehicles were recovered worth more than $5 million.

Officers also seized theft devices used by suspects, police said.

The operation was also a targeted campaign focused on data and intelligence as crime analysts created “heat maps” identifying neighbourhoods that were prone to vehicle thefts in Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan, police said.

“We were able to identify residences in these red zones with high-risk vehicles registered to their owners,” police said. “This allowed us to approach homeowners directly, letting them know they are at risk of having their vehicles stolen, offering them safety tips and giving them the opportunity to take an active role in crime prevention.”

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Investigators said they gave residents information cards on tips to avoid auto theft, as well as 24,000 “Faraday bags” which are used to “block signal-duplicating devices that replicate key fobs.”

Police said auto theft has increased in York Region by more than 200 per cent over the last five years.

In year to year comparison, police said 4,294 vehicles have been stolen as of Dec. 4 this year compared to 3,187 in 2022.

“Thieves operate across the region, the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario and Canada, in organized crime groups, stealing the vehicles then shipping them overseas,” police allege.

Investigators said the cost of the auto thefts is estimated to be more than $1 billion across Canada.

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