Less than halfway into 2022, Toronto has already seen more carjackings than in all of last year, police say — and Mayor John Tory is hinting at further police action in an attempt to stem the tide of violent car thefts.
At a news conference Thursday, Tory said Toronto is seeing organized criminals who are engaging in "brazen" behaviour that is putting people's safety at risk. He said he has spoken with police Chief James Ramer, and said he expects police to announce more enforcement and surveillance measures in the coming days, though he was short on details.
"Stealing a car is one thing and it's not a good thing … but putting the lives potentially of people at risk or endangering the safety of neighbourhoods is just not something we're going to accept," Tory said.
Toronto police say that as of Thursday, investigators have seen 64 carjackings in the city this year, compared to 59 in all of 2021.
At a news conference Tuesday, Insp. Rich Harris told reporters that police had made 20 carjacking arrests so far this year. A police spokesperson wasn't immediately able to provide an updated tally on the number of arrests linked to those cases Thursday afternoon.
The number of carjackings in the area drew national attention after Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner was robbed of his Range Rover outside a movie theatre on Monday.
Incidents piling up
Since then, the incidents and arrests have continued to pile up — from a second teen boy who is now facing charges after a failed carjacking last week, to three carjackings in Scarborough and North York that were reported in less than two hours on Wednesday evening.
Similarly, a home invasion and car theft forced two Toronto schools to enact hold and secure precautions this morning.
In a news release issued Thursday, police said in all three of the city's most recent carjackings on Wednesday, the suspects operated in the same way:
The victim was near their car, which was parked in their driveway.
Several men pulled up in a white sedan, and then one man would jump out of the passenger side and run at the victim.
The suspect would then pull a gun and demand the victim hand over the keys, before jumping in the victim's car and driving off.
The other men would then take off in the first car, which police are describing as a white, four-door Hyundai Elantra.
During Tuesday's news conference, Harris said nearly all of the vehicles that are carjacked in the city end up being sold for profit. He also said there is usually a level of sophistication with these types of crimes in the city, with some stolen vehicles ending up being shipped overseas.
Both high end, economy cars targeted
At a Toronto Police Service board meeting earlier this year, the service reported that auto thefts were up 58 per cent between 2017 and 2020 and up another eight per cent in 2021 compared to 2020.
In 2021, about 80,000 vehicles were stolen across Canada, a one per cent increase from the previous year, according to Equite Association, an organization formed from the investigative branch of the Insurance Bureau of Canada and CANATICS, which analyzes auto thefts across the country.
The big targets were cars with push-button ignition systems, which are the vast majority of vehicles on the road, officials said. High-end cars were also targeted, but so too were reliable, abundant vehicles like Honda CR-Vs and Civics.
The Lexus RX350, the 2019-2017 models, were the top three stolen cars in Ontario in 2021, Equite said.
In Toronto, the Honda CR-V was the top car stolen last year, with 654 nabbed, followed by the Lexus RX350, with 418 taken. Range Rovers and Toyota Highlanders were also among the most stolen.
Police are advising all drivers to be aware of their surroundings and to call 911 if they suspect they are being followed.