Tuesday, November 22, 2022

New cars hard to come by - theft way up

A reporter's new Toyota Highlander SUV was in his driveway in Toronto in 2021. At 3:01 a.m. on Sept. 30 a device unlocked the door and started the engine. The Toyota stopped beside a park at 3:05 a.m. Then all electronic trace of the new 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 sell for two to three times their value, in part because of the worldwide semi-conductor chip shortage has reduced availability. 
There’s a huge profit margin and low risk in new car theft. In Oct 2021, York cops charged nine in a project dubbed “Operation Crockpot.” Detectives seized 88 vehicles valued at $5m. They also seized $300k in cash and “electronic re-programmers” used to turn a blank key fob into one that would start a car. The cars were all destined for overseas.
24 were charged with hundreds of offences following a police investigation into an auto theft ring in Feb, 2022. Project High 5 resulted in the recovery of 217 stolen vehicles valued at more than $11m and a total of 321 charges. Also seized were a loaded handgun, drugs, fraudulent documents and more than $100k in cash. The project culminated with the execution of nine search warrants. Thieves struck at night, using key programming devices to create new, aftermarket fobs to get vehicles running. Toyota Highlander, Honda CRV, Ford F150, Range Rover, and Lexus SUVs were among the vehicles most often targeted.