Auto theft a serious issue for makers, RCMP says as feds unveil action plan

The head of the RCMP said Monday he has spoken to representatives from a major auto manufacturer in Canada about doing more to combat a rise in vehicle thefts, which he says the entire industry is taking seriously.

RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme said the company, which he did not name, assured him during a recent meeting in Ottawa that it and other manufacturers are looking at how to better safeguard their products against thieves. The commissioner did not specify what actions the company is taking, but suggested the problem is a complex one to solve.

“They understand the issues, the problems, but it’s not just one manufacturer looking at the issue, it’s a collective effort, and it’s not as simple as I thought it was,” he told reporters in Brampton, Ont.

“If you look at a company whose car is regularly stolen, eventually no one’s going to buy that car. So it’s going to hurt the company,” Duheme said. “They’re mindful of what’s going on and they’re doing a lot of work to try to address it.”

Duheme spoke alongside ministers and MPs as the government unveiled its national action plan to combat auto theft, a crime that has sharply risen in Canada.

Auto theft insurance claims for replacing stolen vehicles skyrocketed to a record-breaking $1.5 billion in 2023, according to new data released by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which said the cost of those claims has risen 254 per cent since 2018.

The Équité Association estimated in its latest annual auto theft report in February that a vehicle is now stolen in Canada every five minutes.

The action plan announced Monday contains measures and funding announced in the weeks since a national summit on auto theft was held in February. It also features changes to the Criminal Code, such as stiffer penalties and new offences targeting car thieves and the devices they use, that were included in the latest federal budget.

But the plan does not include specific requirements for automakers, which have been criticized for not addressing gaps in vehicle technology that have been exploited by thieves. Wireless key fob programmers that can be used to start a stolen car’s ignition can be purchased on Amazon.

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