Dangerous stunt driving and street racing has worsened in the Greater Toronto Area, police say — and now law enforcement is asking for the public's help in reporting the issue.
Representatives from police forces in the GTA spoke at a news conference Thursday to discuss the 2022 results of a multi-jurisdictional street racing elimination program, which was first established in 1999.
"Street races do not acknowledge jurisdictional boundaries. They move through freely through neighbourhoods without concern or thought for public safety," said Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Marc Andrews.
Both Andrews and officers from other jurisdictions said at the news conference that calls and charges around street racing have increased in the last few years, and are up from 2022.
Acting Superintendent Matt Moyer from Toronto police said at the news conference that compared to this time last year, there's been a 31 per cent increase in calls for service related to stunt driving in Toronto.
When it comes to criminal charges, since the start of 2023, Toronto police have laid 521 charges related to stunt driving in the city, compared to 1,106 charges laid in 2022.
"Car racing should stay on the track ... if you choose to participate in dangerous and illegal driving activities, the Toronto Police Services and our partners will be there to enforce the law," said Moyer.
In Peel, more than 4,000 charges have been laid for street racing and stunt driving since 2018, police say, and about 500 of those have been in the first five months of this year.
That's why police are calling on the public to report incidents of stunt driving, said Andrews.
"There are simple actions you can take to help, if you see numerous vehicles gathering to race, or racing taking place, please call road safety services," he said.
Pandemic fuelled road racing increases, police say
Over in Durham region, police laid 214 charges in relation to stunt driving in 2022, and 104 charges this year, said Joe Mairano, deputy chief of the Durham Regional Police Service. He said the force is utilizing a new automatic licence plate readers that some police vehicles are equipped with to get "dangerous drivers off of our roadways."
Police began to report a significant increase in stunt driving at the onset of the pandemic, with Toronto police reporting a 357 per cent increase in stunt driving from mid-March to the end of June 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. During that time, police issued 443 racing or stunt driving related tickets, which was an increase of almost 350 from 2019.
In the summer of 2021, Ontario introduced new legislation intended to crack down on stunt driving. The Moving Ontarians More Safely Act increased licence suspensions from seven to 30 days and doubled the length of time drivers would have their vehicles impounded to 14 days.
Under the law, drivers found exceeding speed limits by 40 km/h or more where the maximum is less than 80 km/h will face stunt driving charges. Fines are a minimum of $2,000, and can reach $10,000.
Andrews said to report street driving anonymously, the public can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).