Ontario calls for more inspections at ports to prevent car thefts

Doug Ford’s government is calling for more inspections and officers at Ontario ports, as well as a review of the Criminal Code, ahead of the federal government’s national auto theft summit this week.

In a letter dated Feb. 6, Ontario’s attorney general wrote that national ports have become “hot spots for organized crime.”

“Stolen vehicles are slipping past each other at an alarming rate,” Michael Kerzner wrote to Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

“That is why we are calling on your government to invest in increasing exit inspections at ports and rail yards. “This is especially crucial at the Port of Montreal and at the various rail yards in Ontario.”

Additionally, Kerzner calls for more border agents and officials at those ports, as well as an investment in technology that can be used to scan shipping containers.

“A vehicle is stolen every 14 minutes in Ontario,” he wrote. “This problem has become a crisis and all levels of government must work together to solve it.”

The requests in Kerzner’s letter are not new. For about a year, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been calling for federal change, saying he would like to see tougher sentences and penalties for people accused of car theft and other violent crimes.

He told reporters at a news conference last week that he wanted to keep the defendants in prison “as long as possible.”

At the time, Canada’s attorney general said he was open to reviewing the Criminal Code and amending it if necessary to include harsher sentences.

Federal officials will meet Thursday with industry executives, police representatives and members of the Canada Border Services Agency to develop a plan to address a rise in car thefts across the country. The government has promised that new measures will be announced later.

Pierre Poilievre points the finger at Justin Trudeau for the increase in car theft

In a news release issued Monday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre blamed the prime minister for the rise in violent car thefts in Canada.

He reiterated his four-point plan to tackle auto thefts, which was released earlier this month in a campaign-style ad in Brampton, Ont.

Among the ideas is an increase in the mandatory prison sentence for repeat car thieves, from six months to three years.

He also wants to eliminate eligibility for some house arrests, eliminate so-called “catch and release” policies to ensure repeat offenders are not released on bail, and allow car theft to be considered an “aggravating factor” if committed in the name of organized crime.

The federal government says car theft rates in Quebec increased by about half in 2022 compared to the previous year. In Ontario, the numbers are similar.

Data from the Toronto Police Service’s public dashboard shows a slight decrease in car thefts last month. The data showed that 844 vehicles were stolen in the first weeks of January, compared to 963 vehicles stolen in the same period a year earlier. However, the same data shows that more than 12,000 vehicles were stolen in Toronto in 2023, a five-year high for the city.

Ontario Provincial Police also confirmed a “slow increase” in car thefts late last month; However, officials say the decrease is not enough to offset concerns they have about vehicle-related violent crime.


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