Over 70% of stolen autos found in Port of Montreal came from Ontario; more than $34M in vehicles recovered


Published April 3, 2024 at 11:06 am

Stolen vehicles port of montreal brampton mississauga ontario
A trio of stolen vehicles found in shipping containers in Ontario in September, 2023.

Police and border agents say they’ve landed a $34.5 million punch in the fight against rising auto crime in Ontario, stopping nearly 600 stolen vehicles headed overseas from the Port of Montreal.

The crackdown was headed up by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the OPP following tips from Ontario police agencies, including Peel Regional Police, about a large number of vehicles stolen in Ontario headed to Montreal.

Dubbed Project Victor, the joint operation saw investigators open nearly 400 shipping containers at the port between December and March turning up some 598 stolen vehicles. More than 70 per cent of those stolen rides came from Ontario with 430 taken from GTA.

The numbers show most of the vehicles were stolen in Toronto at 215 recovered, while Mississauga and Brampton had the second-highest tally at 125. Another 19 were stolen in the Halton Region while 15 were taken from Durham, and seven were stolen in Hamilton.

The haul of stolen autos is valued at approximately $34.5 million and could have been destined for resale markets in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America.

Stolen vehicles can be a valuable tool for organized crime groups who will sometimes use autos as a form of currency, police say.

And with a vehicle stolen every five minutes in Ontario and some 1.5 million shipping containers passing through the port every year, police and border agents are fighting an uphill battle.

OPP Dep. Comm. Marty Kearns said some 75 per cent of all stolen vehicles recovered at the port come from Ontario, adding that the recent seizure of stolen autos takes more than $34 million “out of the pockets of organized crime.”

More than $1 billion in auto theft insurance claims were made in Ontario last year as the number of auto thefts has hit record highs. Some 5,806 vehicles were reported stolen in both Mississauga and Brampton in 2022, with another 4,482 thefts in Mississauga and 3,178 in Brampton last year for a total of 7,660.

Police routinely look into a large number of stolen vehicles from Ontario being shipped overseas and sold in used car lots.

Kearns said Ontario vehicle owners are being targeted at a much higher rate than elsewhere in Canada, with one factor being proximity to the port.

Kearns said many of the vehicles were new-model or high-end pickup trucks and SUVs, and added that some were connected to various types of vehicle crimes including gunpoint carjackings and home invasions.

While police are calling the operation a win by stopping the nearly 600 vehicles from leaving the country, no arrests have been made in Project Victor. Kearns said the investigation into the stolen vehicles is ongoing and expects individual police forces to lay charges.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown has repeatedly called for enhanced security and screening measures at the Port of Montreal to better check the approximate 34 million tonnes of cargo that comes through the port annually.

And while police are cracking down at ports of entry, some municipalities have also taken the fight against auto crime into their own hands like Brampton’s Auto Theft Reduction Pilot Project which helped contribute to a 37 per cent decrease in auto thefts in the pilot areas in the first six months of the project.

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