Police recover nearly 600 stolen vehicles in Port of Montreal, most of them stolen from the GTA

Nearly 600 stolen vehicles have been recovered from shipping containers in the Port of Montreal over the past few months as part of an interprovincial auto theft investigation, and 75 per cent of them were stolen in Ontario.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced the results of “Project Vector” – an operation to recover stolen vehicles that made it to the Port of Montreal and were intercepted before they could be illegally exported.

The operation ran from Dec. 12 2023 to March 9 2024.

During that time, police opened hundreds of shipping containers to find the stolen vehicles, mostly newer and high-end pickup trucks and SUVs. Of the 598 vehicles that were recovered, 430 were taken from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), police said.

That figure includes 215 vehicles that were reported stolen in Toronto; 125 stolen in Peel Region; 58 from York Region; 19 from Halton Region and 15 from Durham Region.

The recovered vehicles are worth around $34.5 million, police said.

“We’ve taken $34.5 million out of the pockets of organized crime. We are sending a message that we are here, we are active, we are aware of the problem,” OPP Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns told reporters at the news conference.

He said many of the vehicles were also connected to various types of violent vehicle crimes, including carjackings, and home invasions.

“For example, one of the recovered vehicles is linked to a carjacking involving a handgun,” Kearns said.  “Another vehicle was stolen from a driveway and then used for a residential break and enter just hours later. In another instance, thieves invaded a home during the early morning confronted the homeowners and made off with two vehicles.”

No arrests were made as a direct result of Project Vector, but local police forces are continuing to investigate various crimes connected to the recovered vehicles and charges are expected, Kearns said.

The project was a partnership between the OPP’s Provincial Auto Theft and Towing (PATT) Team and the CBSA, in collaboration with local and provincial police in Montreal.

The reason why so many cars are being stolen in the Toronto area and sent to Montreal for export to international destinations is “a question of geography,” Kearns said.

He explained that there is a “significant supply” of high-end vehicles in the GTA and the proximity of 400-series highways makes it easy for thieves to get the vehicles to Montreal, where some 1.5 million shipping containers pass through each year.

While rail transport of stolen vehicles wasn’t part of Project Vector, Kearns said “there is absolutely a collaboration” with rail services in Ontario to combat the problem as well.

Auto thefts have been a growing concern over the past few years and Kearns said police are “tackling this issue from all fronts” and are “seeing tremendous results.”

“While stories like these are concerning for everyone, we want to assure Canadians that police services across the country are working closely to identify those responsible for vehicle crimes and to hold them accountable,” Kearns said. “We are working in tandem with insurance companies, manufacturers and all levels of government to develop long-term solutions aimed at drastically reducing the number of vehicles being stolen each year.”

He said the intelligence which led to Project Vector came from local police services and said Ontario’s auto thefts and towing team is working with community stakeholders, ports of entry and international policing agencies such as INTERPOL.

“While we are proud of what we have accomplished as a part of Project Vector, our work is far from done,” Kearns said. “We are developing new partnerships to enhance the provincial auto theft and towing team. We are deploying additional frontline resources to interdict stolen vehicles, and we’re making great strides in ongoing auto theft investigations.”

Where the stolen vehicles came from

Here’s a breakdown of vehicles reported stolen to Ontario police services that were recovered as part of Project Vector:

·      215 – Toronto Police Service

·      125 – Peel Regional Police

·      58 – York Regional Police

·      19 – Halton Regional Police Service

·      15 – Durham Regional Police Service

·      13 – Ontario Provincial Police

·      12 – Ottawa Police Service

·      7 – Hamilton Regional Police Service

·      6 – Niagara Regional Police Service

·      5 – Waterloo Regional Police Service

·      2 – Woodstock Police Service

·      2 – Barrie Police Service

·      2 – South Simcoe Police Service

·      1 – London Police Service

·      1 – Guelph Police Service


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