Nearly 600 cars recovered in sweeping auto theft crackdown in Ontario, Quebec

Click to play video: 'Nearly 600 stolen vehicles recovered at Montreal port'
Nearly 600 stolen vehicles recovered at Montreal port
WATCH: Authorities say they have recovered 598 stolen vehicles, which were about to be illegally shipped overseas, from the Port of Montreal since December 2023. Eric Sorensen explains what is driving Canada's surge in auto thefts, and the potential ways to put the brakes on this crime. – Apr 3, 2024

An extensive crackdown led to the recovery of 598 stolen vehicles in Canada before they could be illegally shipped overseas,  authorities announced Wednesday amid a boom in auto thefts across the country.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said the majority of the cars — 483 of them — are from Ontario and have a potential value of $34.5 million.

“As our intelligence indicated, the vast majority of recovered stolen vehicles — more than 430 — were taken from the Greater Toronto area,” OPP deputy commissioner Marty Kearns said.

“The primary vehicles being targeted were newer vehicles, including high-end pickup trucks and SUVs.”

Click to play video: 'Authorities recover close to 600 stolen vehicles in Montreal'
Authorities recover close to 600 stolen vehicles in Montreal

The other 115 vehicles were stolen from Quebec, according to police. Police say the cars were supposed to be exported overseas to different markets in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America.

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The months-long police operation, known as Project Vector, was done in collaboration with police forces in both provinces. Since December 2023, 390 shipping containers have been inspected and authorities say cars were discovered in sea containers in Montreal.

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Kearns said “no arrests were made as a direct result of Project Vector” but that police continue to investigate.

“We’re not done,” he said.

Click to play video: '7 arrested in vehicle trafficking, reselling investigation nicknamed ‘Project Paranoid’'
7 arrested in vehicle trafficking, reselling investigation nicknamed ‘Project Paranoid’

Police say the hundreds of recovered cars were connected to different kinds of vehicle crimes, including carjackings and home invasions.

“For example, one of the recovered vehicles is linked to a carjacking involving a handgun,” Kearns said. “Another vehicle was stolen from a driveway and then used for a residential break and enter just hours later. In another instance, thieves invaded a home during the early morning, confronted the homeowners and made off with two vehicles.”

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The sweeping operation comes after more than 30 arrests last month in both provinces in relation to stolen vehicles. Last week, nearly 50 cars were recovered in Toronto by authorities.

The federal government says an estimated 90,000 cars are stolen each year in Canada, resulting in about $1 billion in costs to Canadian insurance policyholders and taxpayers.

In February, the Canadian government held an auto-theft summit to address the widespread practice of shipping stolen cars abroad and to discuss strategies to stop it. It earmarked $28 million in new money to help stop the export of stolen vehicles.

— with files from Global’s Felicia Parrillo the Canadian Press

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