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A major increase in auto thefts in 2022 has victims and industry experts calling for action

Car manufacturers are trying to come up with ways to stop people from stealing vehicles, while security companies are designing technology to help deter or at least identify thieves.  (Clara Pasieka/CBC - image credit)
Car manufacturers are trying to come up with ways to stop people from stealing vehicles, while security companies are designing technology to help deter or at least identify thieves. (Clara Pasieka/CBC - image credit)

It took about 30 seconds for thieves to steal Dave Hutchinson's vehicle right out of his underground parking spot in his downtown Toronto condo.

He asked the concierge to see the surveillance video once he discovered his Range Rover was missing.

The footage showed a white van pulling up to his vehicle, someone getting out and within seconds they were driving it out of the parking lot.

"The fact they did it so easily, they didn't break glass, they didn't break into anything ... it's terrible," he said.

Hutchinson said he's had a handful of friends who also had their cars stolen this year.

In Toronto alone more than 8,000 vehicles were reported stolen in 2022. That number is up from about 5,600 stolen vehicles in 2021.

"It's a serious problem," said David Adams, president and CEO of Global Automakers of Canada. "I think what we are seeing more and more is this is a symptom of organized crime efforts."

CBC
CBC

Adams said the cars are being targeted, stolen and then shipped overseas to supply a large demand.

"The reality is every time vehicle manufacturers put in place mechanisms to try and thwart vehicle theft, thieves are essentially almost one step ahead," he said.

One of the most common ways thieves are stealing cars is using an electronic device to reprogram a car's factory setting — to hack into a car's computer and re-program it to accept the key they brought with them. Hutchinson believes this is how his car was stolen.

Adams said car manufacturers are trying to make it more challenging to steal vehicles, which in turn is leading to more carjackings and home break ins as thieves need to physically get the keys.

"Not to take away from the responsibility vehicle manufacturers have to continue to improve the technology to reduce vehicle thefts, but I think the reality is it's a supply and demand issue."

He is hoping local and federal law enforcement agencies and international shipping ports look more seriously at ways to make it harder for people to send stolen vehicles overseas.

York Regional Police
York Regional Police

It's not just car manufacturers who are trying to come up with ways to stop people from stealing vehicles — security companies are designing technology to help deter or at least identify thieves.

Raven Connected has designed a video telematics device that is connected to the vehicle's internal computer. When the device detects motion, a camera that sits on the dashboard records and transmits the images and video to an application on the user's cell phone.

It also transmits a GPS signal so the user can track the vehicle.

"Having that real time visibility to the front and cabin facing camera makes a really big difference," said Travis Gray, director of business development for Raven Connected.

He said he's had clients whose vehicles were stolen, but with the device they were able to track the car, capture videos and images, which were shared with local police and resulted in an arrest and charges.

CBC
CBC

There are some ways police recommend keeping your vehicle safer, including:

  • Getting a steering wheel lock or an automatic engine shut-off.

  • Cover or block your vehicle information number when parked.

  • Store vehicle keys or fobs away from the windows and doors of homes.

  • If you have a second vehicle, park it directly behind the more targeted one.

Hutchinson said he doesn't believe drivers should have to go that far to ensure their vehicle doesn't get stolen.

When purchasing his new vehicle, he decided instead to pick a car that was not on Équité's top 10 stolen vehicles list. Équité is a non-profit anti-insurance fraud association.

Some of the most frequently stolen vehicles on their list include the Honda CR-V, Lexus RX series and Ford F150 series.

"It's scary because you put a lot of your hard work and hard earned money into that vehicle," he said.

"I don't understand why people are still buying the vehicles if they are known targeted vehicles."