31 arrests in auto theft crackdown operation by police in Ontario, Montreal

Click to play video: 'Vehicle theft crackdown nets 31 arrests in Ontario, Quebec'
Vehicle theft crackdown nets 31 arrests in Ontario, Quebec
Joe Goodwin of the Ontario Provincial Police says 31 arrests were made in Ontario and Quebec as part of Project Volcano, a police operation tackling auto thefts – Mar 22, 2024

Ontario and Montreal police say they are cracking down on the increase in auto theft through a joint effort officially announced Friday.
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Montreal police held a press conference to detail the results of a significant interprovincial operation dubbed Project Volcano.
The initiative was targeted at bringing individuals before the court to answer for an increase in auto theft, police say.
Through Project Volcano, police say officers arrested 31 individuals who were connected to auto theft in Canada.
The initiative targets individuals with outstanding warrants related to auto thefts in the eastern region of Ontario and Quebec.
“Auto theft is impacting Ontarians at an unprecedented rate. In the past seven weeks alone, close to 3,000 vehicles have been stolen from unsuspecting community members across our province. Criminals have trespassed on properties to steal these vehicles, jeopardizing our communities and our officers’ safety,” OPP deputy commissioner Marty Kearns says.
Kearns reports that between 2021 and 2023, police have seen an increase of 206 per cent in violent carjackings and home invasions, which he adds were predominantly in the Toronto area. 
In 2023, he notes there were 417 carjackings in the Greater Toronto Area, 105 of which involved firearms.  
“The prevalence of firearms in vehicle crimes poses a serious threat to public safety for both community members and our police officers. What is also concerning is the speed with which criminals are able to steal vehicles, often using methods to defeat existing anti-theft technology,” Kearns says. 
Kearns notes that multiple police forces have joined efforts in a number of task forces to mitigate the increase in car thefts and recover stolen property.
Many stolen vehicles in Ontario were being transferred to Quebec to be shipped out of the country through the port of Montreal.
While most vehicles come from Toronto, OPP say the issue impacts all regions.

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Click to play video: 'What costs could you face if your vehicle is stolen?'
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According to a report released last month by the Équité Association, an organization that aims to reduce insurance fraud and crime, 30, 134 cars were stolen in Ontario in 2023. In Quebec, 15, 225 cars were stolen last year.
“They were either driven across provincial boundaries or brought to Quebec by transport truck or rail. Many were stolen from the GTA. But this is an issue that impacts all of our jurisdictions. In most cases, they were destined to be illegally exported through the Port of Montreal,” OPP Supt. Joe Goodwin says.
Goodwin says this transport has led to increased pressure on provincial police in the eastern region of the province to crack down on the number of stolen vehicles headed through the area. 
“Numerous arrests occurred as a result of their hard work. Some of the accused were held in custody, and others were released on conditions with future court appearance dates. However, many of those who have been released failed to attend their scheduled dates,” Goodwin says. 
Through Project Volcano, Goodwin says police identified a number of the wanted individuals in Montreal. 
Of the 31 people arrested, police say 12 were found to be already detailed in Quebec correctional facilities and will face further charges for the thefts in Ontario once released. 
“It is important to note that the officers observed evidence of recidivism. This week, during the arrest periods, they were found in residences with other persons who were wanted for auto theft, and they were also found in possession of auto theft tools and technology. This demonstrates that despite having previously charged, some of the accused continue to re-offend,” Goodwin says. 
Police warn that an increased presence of officers from both departments is expected in Montreal throughout the week as the operation is underway.
“Together, we struck the hard blow against auto theft rings in Ontario and Quebec. The message we’re sending is clear: There are no borders between our provinces. We will continue to maintain pressure on all those involved in auto theft at all levels,” Montreal police Insp. David Shane says.
“By simultaneously attacking the base and the top of the pyramid. We’re convinced that we’ve shaken the organizations involved in this activity. We take vehicle theft very seriously.”
Shane warned that vehicle theft is increasingly becoming a public safety issue as thieves try to avoid arrest and flee at high and dangerous speeds without concern for residents. 
“We take vehicle theft very seriously. The impact on victims is very significant, both financially and in terms of their sense of security,” Shane says.
There is no danger to public safety at this time, police say.
With files from Global News’ Felicia Parrillo

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