Toronto’s east end has seen an increase in auto thefts and carjackings in 2022.
Police of 55 Division at 101 Coxwell Ave. report this year’s auto theft statistics surpass the previous year’s incidents by a substantial margin, with more than a month left in the calendar year.
As of Nov. 14, the division has seen 396 auto thefts in 2022, surpassing last year’s total of 286, an increase of 38 per cent year-over-year.
This reflects a Toronto-wide spike in auto thefts. According to Toronto Police data, city residents have had more than 8,000 vehicles stolen so far in 2022, a 43 per cent jump from 2021.
Auto thefts vs. carjackings
Toronto has also seen an increase in carjackings that can put vehicle owners’ personal safety at risk, according to police.
“Carjackings are different than auto thefts,” said Stephanie Sayer, TPS media relations manager. “With carjackings, thieves use the threat of violence to get people out of their vehicles and have also shown weapons such as knives and handguns. Victims have been forcibly removed from their cars.”
A press release put out by TPS on Oct. 4 reported there had been 182 carjackings in Toronto in 2022 at time of publish, resulting in 50 arrests.
In 2021, there was a total of 102 carjackings. The press release also mentioned that police had recovered 56 of the vehicles so far.
Sayer said that each TPS Division, including Division 55, has a Major Crime Unit that investigates these reports and would establish if there are any similarities or links to other incidents.
“Every Division analyzes crime trends and implements proactive uniform and plain-clothes projects to tackle particular hot spots,” Sayer said.
She also said that TPS had implemented a team designed to investigate auto thefts associated with organized crime. This team of investigators works with other units, like the Hold-Up Squad, a task force dedicated to carjacking and auto theft crimes, to identify the perpetrators.
Don’t fight back during a carjacking, Toronto Police urge public
“We understand these types of crimes can have a lasting impact on victims, whether they are physically injured or not, and we will continue to identify suspects, charge them, and return vehicles to their owners,” Hold-Up Squad Inspector Richard Harris said in the press release.
Sayer mentioned that a growing issue is auto thefts conducted through technology. She said most stolen vehicles contain a keyless ignition system, making it easier for people to steal them.
Her tips for protecting your vehicle are to use a steering wheel lock, parking in a well lit driveway or to park in a garage if possible.
Her message to the people, if ever approached by someone trying to steal their car, is to give the vehicle up and not to argue and fight with the robber.
“Keep your doors locked at all times, and if you ever feel threatened, sound your car alarm and call 9-1-1.”
News reports spark new fears for East-end residents
“People work really hard for their cars, and knowing that someone will go to any measure to take them is very sad,” East-York resident Scott Hunter said.
Hunter said he is grateful that he has not experienced an auto theft or carjacking yet, but now there is fear whenever he goes out. Hunter said the many news reports of carjackings and auto thefts make him believe he can be a future victim as well, a thought he never had before this year, with all the years he’s been living in the city.
“I hope people don’t try to value their car over their life,” another East York resident, Steven Walder, said.
Walder said the aftermath of having your car stolen — of calling insurance companies and filing police reports, could be a big headache. More than that, the trauma the victim may develop is significant.
Walder also said that whenever an auto-theft victim is approached, they should oblige and give the vehicle up, stating that their life is far more valuable than a car.
Keyless ignition cars most at risk: auto shop employee
Individual vehicle owners aren’t the only ones taking measures to protect their vehicles: auto shops are also on guard, one employee said.
“Double stacking cars, keeping keys in a secure location, secure parking lots, I know some bigger shops have security guards at night,” Nabeel Ashraf, an employee at SSR Auto Service, on Pape Avenue, said.
Ashraf said the shop he works has never dealt with a carjacking or auto theft incident as he believes since it is a 24-hour garage, it is always under supervision.
But, he is aware of the high number of jackings and thefts and knows that other stores are taking measures to protect the vehicles in their garage.
He also encouraged the public to keep their cars in a garage if possible as most of these thefts are done to cars that have a keyless ignition.
“People are using special gadgets to amplify signals from the keys to turn on the cars,” he said.
Frequently stolen vehicles
According to Sayer, the most common stolen vehicles are:
• Honda Cr-V
• Lexus Rx350
• Honda Civic
• Land Rover Range Rover
• Toyota Highlander
• Ford F150
• Honda Accord
• Toyota Corolla
• Toyota Rav4
• Hyundai Elantra