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Exploring the involvement of organized crime in motor vehicle theft

By Marnie Wallace


  • In 2002, over 161,000 vehicles were stolen in Canada. The vehicle theft rate had increased steadily between 1984 and 1996, and has generally declined since, including a 5% drop in 2002.
  • While thrill-seeking continues to be a major motive for the theft of vehicles, vehicles stolen for profit is a serious concern in certain parts of the country. According to experts, vehicles stolen by organized groups are generally stolen for export overseas, inter-provincial resale or stripped for parts.
  • The prevalence of organized crime involvement in vehicle thefts can be roughly estimated by looking at the proportion of stolen vehicles not recovered. In 2002, approximately one out of every five stolen vehicles was not recovered.
  • While the highest rates of total vehicle theft are found in the western provinces, most of these vehicles are later recovered and are generally taken for thrill-seeking purposes. The highest rates of organized vehicle theft, using the rate of stolen vehicles not recovered as a proxy measure, are found in the larger urban centres of Quebec and Ontario as well as the port city of Halifax.
  • Among large forces, Montréal appears to have the largest problem of organized vehicle theft in the country, with a non-recovered rate that is more than twice that of the next highest force (Halifax,). Montréal also has the highest proportion of vehicles not recovered, at 44%.
  • Other high rates of non-recovered vehicles were found in London, Ottawa-Gatineau and the Toronto area. The lowest rates were in St. John's, Victoria and Regina.
  • Vehicles stolen from private homes have a much higher probability of not being recovered (34%) than vehicles stolen from streets (10%) and parking lots (15%). As well, 41% of vehicles stolen from car dealerships are not recovered. This may indicate that organized groups are very selective in the vehicles they target.

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Date modified: 2006-04-24 Important Notices
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