Canada’s Équité Association’s 2022 Vehicle Theft Trend Report, which was released in June, has revealed some alarming numbers. Unprecedented results showed that for the first time ever, insurers had to pay out more than $1 billion in claims for stolen vehicles. The sharp uptick is particularly bad in Ontario, where the industry ended up paying out more for vehicle theft claims in the first half of 2022 than for the entirety of 2020.
There were double-digit increases in most provinces, even Alberta. Our province, which had seen vehicle theft numbers declining for several years, also reported a marked increase.
- Ontario up 48.3% year over year
- Quebec up 50% year over year
- Alberta up 18.3% year over year
- Atlantic Canada up 34.5% year over year
- New Brunswick +35.6%
- Nova Scotia +26.7%
- Newfoundland +55%
- PEI +56.5%
Vehicles are being stolen at a rate of one every six minutes, which experts are calling near-crisis levels. Unfortunately, the proceeds from vehicle theft tend to go towards supporting illegal activities like drug and gun trafficking and human smuggling.
Why are vehicles being stolen more often?
Canada is now a leading global supplier of stolen vehicles, says the Équité Association. Members of organized crime associations find that Canada is a “low-risk/high-reward” location, with few consequences and easy offloading. Vehicles are being sent for export, with Montréal providing a handy port to quickly send the vehicles overseas, or being kept local but unidentifiable through changing their Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN).
The Honda CR-V is the vehicle most often stolen and sent for export in Canada, with the majority of the compact SUVs coming from eastern provinces. Interestingly, many stolen vehicles are ending up in West Africa.
In Alberta, thieves are primarily choosing to steal older vehicles with a preference for trucks. In Ontario and Quebec, the majority of stolen vehicles are new (2017 or newer), because organized crime rings are focused on stealing new or luxury vehicles for maximum profit overseas.
New Brunswick is reporting more stolen vehicles than all the other Atlantic provinces. Its location makes it easy to move cars and trucks across the border to the U.S. or straight into Quebec to Montréal.
The pandemic didn’t help, either. The supply chain problems that occurred, where the semiconductor microchips that are needed to make new vehicles became scarce due to an increase in their demand for other technologies, such as cell phones, televisions, computers, games, and home appliances, made new vehicles hard to find and more expensive than usual. That dearth of inventory created an unexpected demand that thieves were more than happy to try to fill using stolen goods.
Technology playing a major part in vehicle theft
Technology is playing a huge part in the increase in vehicle thefts, with thieves getting craftier and craftier.
A new trend is what is called a “relay attack,” where thieves have figured out a way to intercept signals from key fobs and then clone them right away. They can then easily access your vehicle and drive it off, all within a manner of minutes and without your burglar alarm going off. They essentially “override” your vehicle’s electronic immobilizer, which was the most major line of defence against vehicle theft for many years.
Another method of car theft is to access the onboard diagnostic port (ODP) in vehicles. The ODP is the gatekeeper to a vehicle’s electronic systems. Thieves break into a vehicle, plug into the ODP and then program themselves a new key fob.
Another sneaky method criminals use is to mark vehicles they have targeted for theft with a tracking tag, such as an AirTag or SmartTag normally used to help people find their lost phones or laptops (or dogs). That way they can virtually follow your vehicle to your home and go to work on stealing it late at night when everyone is usually asleep. Keep an eye out for an odd tag on your vehicle and if you spot one, report it to the police immediately.
Protecting yourself against vehicle theft
In terms of preventing vehicle theft, Équité recommends using a common-sense, layered approach, which consists of four categories:
Category 1: Start simple
- Keep car doors locked at all times
- Never leave your keys in the ignition or leave it running (even when it’s cold)
- Close all windows completely before leaving your car
- Park in a well-lit area, and do not leave any valuables in sight
Category 2: Install anti-theft devices
- Audible alarms, steering column collars, steering wheel/brake pedal locks, on-board diagnostic (OBD) port locks, and brake and/or wheel locks are all examples
- Theft deterrent decals and identification markers in or on the vehicle work to deter thieves
Category 3: Install a vehicle immobilizer. Examples are:
- Smart keys
- Fuse cut-offs
- Kill switches
- Starter, ignition and fuel disablers
- Wireless ignition authentication
Category 4: Invest in a tracking system
High-tech tracking services install multiple devices in difficult-to-locate areas throughout your vehicle. If your vehicle is stolen, they will be able to find it right away.
Avoid car theft and save on insurance premiums
Don’t forget that if your vehicle is among those more likely to be stolen, you will see that risk reflected in your vehicle insurance rates. If the vehicle theft trend continues, certain types of vehicles may even end up being uninsurable.
Working with a trustworthy insurance broker will keep your costs to a minimum without affecting the quality of your coverage. Lane’s Insurance of Calgary is a leading brokerage serving Alberta, offering affordable insurance bundles, excellent advice, outstanding claims support and the industry’s best customer service. Contact us at our Calgary, Edmonton, Banff, and Alberta offices.