109 vehicles recovered, dozens of arrests since last fall, Ontario's carjacking task force announces

Toronto police said the provincial carjacking task force helped arrest 89 people, lay 554 charges and recover 109 vehicles since last September. (Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit)
Toronto police said the provincial carjacking task force helped arrest 89 people, lay 554 charges and recover 109 vehicles since last September. (Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit)

The province's carjacking task force helped arrest 89 people, lay 554 charges and recover 109 vehicles since forming last year, Toronto police announced Thursday.

In the first major update since its inception, Supt. Steve Watts, of organized crime enforcement, called the results, which date back to Sept. 21, "very successful."

"We continue to see a concerning rise in violence related to auto thefts that the PCJTF (Provincial Carjacking Joint Task Force) will continue to address," he said in a news release.

"Across the GTA, members of the task force are successfully disrupting the networks responsible for high-risk auto thefts and holding those who are responsible to account."

The task force was officially announced in October amid a marked rise in violent auto thefts and break-and-enters in the GTA. It is co-led by the Toronto Police Service and Ontario Provincial Police, but has members from forces throughout the region, including Peel, York, Halton and Durham police.

It was created to "disrupt the networks responsible for high-risk auto thefts, which increasingly involve violence, firearms and other weapons," according to Toronto police's website. Stolen vehicles are used to carry out other crimes, or are shipped and resold domestically and overseas.

Violent incidents related to auto crimes occurring in Ontario have increased over the last several years, Toronto police said, though the number of carjackings in Toronto decreased in 2023 compared to the year before. Last year, there were more than 300 carjackings in the GTA, with over 200 of those occurring in the city.

"Through this ongoing collaboration, we are confident that we can identify and dismantle the organized crime groups that are responsible for the recent spike in serious vehicle crimes," said OPP Det. Supt. Paula Milne, adding forces are working with partners like Équité Association and the Canada Border Services Agency.

Police said people can take several steps to protect themselves and prevent home invasions and carjackings, including:

  • Parking vehicles in garages.

  • Keeping driveways well-lit, with exterior lights on all night.

  • Installing a home security system.

  • Putting security film on glass windows and doors.

  • Having multi-point door locks.

  • Keeping backyard gates locked and ground windows secured.

  • Locking the doors and activating the alarm on your key fob to create noise and deter thieves if you see someone coming toward your vehicle.

  • Being wary of intentional rear-end collisions as a way for thieves to jump inside the vehicle and leave the scene, and documenting the incident if one takes place.

  • Driving to the nearest police station if you suspect you're being followed.

  • Complying with demands if approached by armed suspects, then calling police when it is safe to do so.

Brampton mayor calls for help from federal government 

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said authorities in the GTA have done "everything we can" to stop auto theft and is calling on the federal government for help.

He said he and Peel Police have been conducting "robust advocacy" toward the federal government aimed at stiffening auto theft charges in the Criminal Code and boosting audits at ports, particularly the Port of Montreal, to help catch stolen cars before they're shipped overseas.

He said he hopes to expand on these points at a national summit on combating auto theft in Ottawa next month.

"The principal difference is screening. The principal difference is sentencing. We need to make sure there is teeth in sentencing and we need to make sure that we have security at our ports," he said.