Monday, November 29, 2021

New car dealer's lots empty - theft way up

A reporter's new Toyota Highlander SUV was in his driveway in Toronto at 3:01 a.m. on Sept. 30. At 3:02 a.m. someone used a device to unlock the door and start the engine. The Toyota stopped at the side of a park at 3:05 a.m. Then all electronic trace of the five-month-old vehicle vanished. The car was driven a short distance and loaded into a cargo container along with a second stolen Toyota, then moved by truck, either to the Brampton Intermodal or the Concord Intermodal. The container arrived at the Port of Halifax, to be loaded onto a container vessel bound for the United Arab Emirates. Customs and insurance investigators seized 30 vehicles, including the Toyota. Among the cars were more Toyota Highlanders and Toyota RAV4s, Ford F150 pickup trucks, Lexus RX 350s, Honda CR-Vs and a few Porsches.
They would sell for two to three times their value, particularly now because the worldwide semi-conductor chip shortage has reduced the availability of vehicles. There’s a huge profit margin and low risk in this business.
It costs about $10k to move a shipping container that can hold two or three vehicles. A container ship waiting in the Halifax port was scheduled to take the shipment to Dubai. Up until a year ago, most stolen cars in Canada leaving from the East Coast were sent to West Africa, then shipped up to Europe. The bottom line is that customs officers can’t check all containers. Modern cars use 1,000 to 2,000 computer chips for everything from the operation of power brakes, power steering, backup cameras and the onboard display screen. With fewer cars available, crews are working in “steal to order” rings. Cops in Ontario have made some arrests.
In October, York cops charged nine men in a project dubbed “Operation Crockpot.” Detectives seized 88 vehicles valued at $5m. They also seized $300k in cash and a quantity of “electronic re-programmers” used to turn a blank key fob into one that would start a car. The cars were all destined for overseas locations. In March, York Regional Police seized cars valued at $4.5m.