A global pandemic has not slowed the flow of stolen vehicles to Atlantic Canadian ports for shipment overseas.
The Canada Border Services Agency says it has seized more than 100 stolen vehicles in Halifax and Saint John since the beginning of 2020, including several last month.
“The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) can confirm that while working with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) to examine vehicles being exported from Canada, CBSA officers intercepted and seized over $235,000 worth of stolen vehicles at the Port of Saint John during the month of February,” CBSA spokesperson Mark Stuart said in an email to Global News.
“These vehicles, two pickup trucks and three sport utility vehicles (SUVs), were destined for locations overseas.”
It’s not clear where the vehicles came from.
Since Jan. 1, 2020, Stuart said the CBSA seized 14 stolen vehicles in Saint John and 97 stolen vehicles in Halifax during examination of export shipping containers.
Port Saint John president and CEO Jim Quinn said it’s a big issue for ports across the country. Quinn said the problem was raised at a meeting of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, for which he is also president, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are activities that come through seaports, airports — you name it — border crossings,” Quinn said. “Ports in Canada are no different than any other entry point in terms of needing to be on guard.”
The IBC said organized crime groups will often steal vehicles in Ontario and send them to the East Coast for shipment to countries where the cars and their parts are sold well above retail value. High-end or luxury vehicles are often high on the list of targets.”
In a December 2020 news release, the IBC said vehicle thefts cost Canadians nearly $1 billion annually.
“When vehicles are being stolen and have to be replaced through insurance, it’s an extremely expensive event,” said Bryan Gast, the national director of investigative services for the IBC. “And then when you add it front-line services, what it costs CBSA to do their work, law enforcement. It just adds to the total price tag.”
A new building at the Port of Halifax is expected to be used by the Canada Border Services Agency for container inspections. Halifax and Saint John port officials both said it’s important to continue to support the CBSA and other authorities.
“At the end of the day, those folks do their work,” Quinn said. “And I think it’s our job to ensure that anything that needs to be done to facilitate their work and their activities, that we support that.”
The CBSA said the vehicles found at Port Saint John in February were turned over to the Saint John Police Force.
“The vehicles are now in the process of being returned to their rightful owners through the Insurance Bureau of Canada,” Saint John Police Force manager of communications Jim Hennessy said in an email statement.