Gatineau police warn about rash of vehicle thefts

Gatineau police say there have already been 30 thefts of vehicles in 2023. (Christian Milette/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Gatineau police say there have already been 30 thefts of vehicles in 2023. (Christian Milette/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Police in Gatineau, Que., are warning about vehicle thefts in the national capital region after arresting six people in the past two weeks.

On Jan. 12, two men in their 40s were arrested in the city's Buckingham sector and charges of attempted vehicle theft and possession of a burglary tool were submitted to the province's director of criminal and penal prosecutions.

Similar charges were filed Jan. 19 after two women and two men between the ages of 17 and 20 were arrested in the Gatineau sector.

In that case, police had been carrying out a special operation to target vehicle theft.

There have been 30 vehicle thefts in the city since the start of 2023, roughly the same as last year but still concerning, said the force's spokesperson Andrée East.

"It is a lot considering that this is a [theft] that can be made really quick," East said.

It's not a problem unique to Gatineau, East said, but rather a province-wide issue, with networks of criminals stealing vehicles over the past several years.

It's a similar story in Ottawa, where by the end of 2022 there had been approximately 1,200 vehicles stolen in the nation's capital — a number that has doubled over the past five years. As of Monday, Ottawa police were reporting 76 thefts so far in January.

Newer keys to blame says insurance expert 

According to Jesse Caron, an expert with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) in Quebec, car thefts In Canada have been on the rise in recent years, mostly due to new keyless entry technology.

"[While it's a] convenience feature, the intelligent key, it's also convenient for thieves," Caron told Radio-Canada.

Caron said thieves use amplifiers to increase the signals from keys while they're stashed inside owners' homes, allowing them to then get inside the vehicle and drive off.

There have also been reports of thieves breaking into vehicles and then using the car's onboard diagnostics port to program a new key fob.

Glenn Payette/CBC
Glenn Payette/CBC

Caron suggests keeping keys a long way away from the driveway, or placing them inside a metal box that will interfere with the radio frequencies. He also says people should use steering wheel bars.

Ottawa police told CBC earlier that vehicle owners can also use a lock for the diagnostics port.

Otherwise, Caron said, once the vehicle is taken, it's usually quickly shipped to an overseas market. In Ottawa  about 85 per cent of stolen vehicles are never seen again.

That can lead to another problem, Caron said.

"It is a concern because it has an overall effect on the insurance premium," he said. "So if more vehicles are stolen, the premiums will go up."