More than 50 stolen vehicles were found Monday in containers at the Port of Montreal. This major seizure highlights the meteoric rise in thefts in the metropolis and exports to other countries.
While an average of 810 vehicles are stolen each month on the territory of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), there are already 303 in April, between the 1st and the 9th inclusive, in just nine days.
On Monday, in collaboration with the Canada Border Services Agency and Équité Association, SPVM investigators found 53 stolen vehicles piled up in 25 containers in the Port of Montreal. This is the largest seizure in port facilities since the beginning of the year.
“It’s a national scourge,” says Commander Yannick Desmarais, of the North Criminal Investigations Section and responsible for motor vehicle thefts.
“This year’s trend shows that we should beat last year’s figures,” adds the man who is also co-director of the Integrated Vehicle Theft Team.
La Presse met with Commander Desmarais and his counterpart, Commander Dominic Monchamp of the Eastern Region General Investigations, on Monday morning to discuss the issue of vehicle theft.
The two officers explained that vehicle thefts have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a decrease in the supply of new and used vehicles, not just in North America, but around the world. .
Whereas in not-so-distant times vehicles were stolen to be cut up or cloned, many are stolen today to be exported to countries where they are sold for two or three times as much.
The Port of Montreal is a strategic facility for exporting to Europe or Africa.
Stolen vehicles end up in the port not because the thieves’ rings are aided by corrupt employees, but because they have registered companies that they use to fake shipments of goods.
In Quebec, it is mainly organized crime groups from the Near and Middle East (PMO) who organize these exports, and it is many of the members of emerging street gangs who steal the vehicles, having thus found a new niche.
“Yes, our emerging gang members, we see them crossing into other provinces. It is an interprovincial problem. The opportunity is there, the demand is there,” says Commander Desmarais.
“What we also see are disadvantaged local youth being lured by the lure of money and brought to Ontario to steal vehicles. But when they steal a first one, their arm is caught in the gears, they are threatened and no longer have control of what they are doing, “adds his colleague Monchamp.
The theft of a single vehicle can net a young gang member over $3,000.
In an interview with Paul Arcand at 98.5 a few days ago, the head of the SPVM, Fady Dagher, said that vehicle thefts are used, among other things, to buy firearms.
“A proportion of our vehicle thieves are armed. We are not able to quantify it, but it is not anecdotal”, confirms Commander Monchamp.
Among the 53 stolen vehicles discovered Monday in the Port of Montreal are Toyota RAV4s and Highlanders, Dodge Rams, Jeep Cherokees and Wranglers, Lexus RX 350s, a Range Rover and a Chevrolet Tahoe.
Thirty-six were stolen in another province, almost exclusively in Ontario, and seventeen in Quebec, including ten in Montreal.
Commanders Desmarais and Monchamp urge vehicle owners to equip themselves with tools to prevent theft.
The three main ones are the installation, upon purchase, of a tracking system, the installation of a bar used to lock the steering wheel and the use of a padlock on the OBD socket, to prevent the thief from having access to the on-board computer.
“Today, locking our doors is not enough,” Commander Monchamp said.
“Currently, the police services and partners, we are in restructuring. We are already working on it, but we are going to put even more effort into it, especially because of the links we are increasingly making with armed violence. But it’s not just the police who have to tackle it. Everyone pays the price. Everyone has to get involved and take their responsibilities,” concludes Commander Desmarais.
251 vehicles seized:
(SPVM, SQ, SPAL, Terrebonne police, GRC)