‘There are no borders between our provinces’: OPP say 31 suspects accused of stealing cars in Ontario arrested in Quebec

A joint operation between provincial police and law enforcement officials in Montreal led to the arrest of 31 Quebec residents who police said were wanted on car theft offenses in Ontario.

During a press conference in Hawkesbury, Ontario. On Friday morning, police confirmed that some of the suspects arrested as part of the investigation, dubbed Project Volcano, are as young as 16 years old. The arrests, police said, relate to crimes that occurred between March 2019 and September 2023.

Police said they are increasingly seeing a trend where vehicles stolen in Ontario, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, are then transported to Quebec to be shipped out of the region through the Port of Montreal.

Some of the suspects detained by the OPP reside in Quebec, police said, and do not return to Ontario to attend court or violate the conditions of their release, resulting in arrest warrants being issued.

“In many cases they were wanted not only for auto theft but also for numerous other serious crimes, including possession of a loaded firearm, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and drunk driving,” he said Friday. OPP Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns told reporters.

“We have encountered defendants as young as 16 driving vehicles recklessly in an attempt to evade police. “These incidents have resulted in several serious car collisions, putting the lives of our police officers and the lives of the public at significant risk.”

Four of the suspects arrested as part of the investigation are under 18 years old and some did not have driver’s licenses, police said. Twelve prominent suspects identified by police are currently serving sentences in Quebec correctional centers and will be arrested when they are released from those facilities, investigators added.

OPP Superintendent. Joe Goodwin said some of the suspects arrested by police were found at residences with other people wanted on auto theft crimes.

“They were also found in possession of tools and technology for car theft,” he said. “This shows that despite having been previously charged, some of the defendants continued to reoffend.”

In sp. David Shane of the City of Montreal Police Service (SPVM) said the arrests in the Volcano Project have “shaken the organizations involved in this activity.”

“Together, we have dealt a serious blow to car theft rings in Ontario and Quebec. The message we are sending is clear. There are no borders between our provinces. “We will continue and maintain pressure on everyone involved in car theft at all levels,” he stated.

“Crime knows no borders, we know that. But as we showed this week, neither do the police.”

GTA sees increase in violent vehicle thefts and home invasions

Kearns said auto theft is affecting Ontarians at an “unprecedented” rate, noting that in the last seven weeks alone, nearly 3,000 vehicles were stolen across the province.

According to the OPP, there has been a 206 per cent increase in violent vehicle thefts and home invasions in Ontario between 2021 and 2023.

These incidents, Kearns said, are occurring “predominantly in the GTA,” where they have resulted in “serious injuries and even death.”

“In 2023, there were 417 vehicle thefts in the GTA. 125 of them involved incidents where firearms were seized,” he said.

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