Toronto resident Zeynel Ari says it took less than 20 minutes for someone to steal his car.
That, he says, is about how much time it took to walk to the bank from his parking spot along Kipling Avenue and The Queensway, complete his errands and return to find his white, 2021 Land Rover Range Rover sports car gone.
“Your mind is like shocked, you know? Because you want to see your car there,” said Ari, who’s also known as ‘Dino’ in the community.
“I feel really terrible … I feel not secure anymore.”
While he’s heard stories of increased auto thefts in the city and was warned by others that Range Rovers seem to be particular targets for thieves, Ari says he didn’t think it’d happen to him, let alone be so easy to pull off.
But according to the latest data from 2021, that’s the opposite of what’s happening. Ari’s type of car bumped up to the sixth most commonly stolen car in the province from the 10th spot the year before, coming in with a 4.2 per cent theft rate.
And according to an expert, the latest figures show thieves and organized crime groups are not only getting faster and better at stealing cars across the board, but they’re also using upgraded technology, like key fobs and push-to-start buttons that new and luxury models have, to their advantage — making stories like Ari’s increasingly common.
“This is about the the fifth year in a row that the number of thefts in Ontario has increased,” said Bryan Gast, the vice president of investigative services at non-profit Équité Association, which investigates and analyzes insurance fraud and crime.
“These vehicles are being used for these organizations to profit from, and there’s significant profits that they’re earning.”
An investigation by CBC Toronto last month found car thefts are up nearly 45 per cent in the city compared to last year and up 54 per cent in Peel Region as of Aug. 31. That’s on top of violent car thefts called carjackings, which in Toronto are up 209 per cent from 2021 so far this year.
Is your car on the list? Here’s how to better protect it
Gast says thieves can get into cars by intercepting the locking signal sent from the key fob, which can take less than 30 seconds, or by manually breaking in and plugging into the car’s diagnostic port to reprogram the key fob and start the vehicle.
That’s why it’s crucial to have multiple layers of protection to deter thieves from targeting your vehicle in the first place, such as using a steering wheel or diagnostic port lock, parking your car in a garage or a well-lit area, or using aftermarket tracking services or devices and flagging any suspicious activity to law enforcement.
“The more layers that you have, the more time that it’s going to take them to defeat,” Gast said.
This year, Équité Association released the amount of recorded thefts for each vehicle on the list. All together, there were 5,745 vehicles stolen from Ontario, accounting for more than half of the nearly 11,000 car thefts the association logged country-wide.
What makes Toronto a target for thieves?
The province’s biggest city continues to lead the country in the number of cars stolen each year according to the association’s analysis, with Gast saying Toronto’s proximity to transportation ports, along with the number of cars to choose from, make it a prime target for thieves.
Gast says thieves often profit from exporting the cars or by taking advantage of the supply chain issues across the globe by renting the vehicles out then selling it to unsuspecting consumers.
Recovery rates for stolen cars are “significantly lower” in Ontario and the GTA compared to Western Canada, Gast says, which suggests that most stolen cars are being exported away or thieves are changing the vehicle identification number.
Ari says he hasn’t heard word on the status of his car, but hopes a greater solution to the problem materializes.
“We need to do more in order to secure our belongings, our cars, our family, you know, ourselves,” Ari said.