One moment it was in her mother’s driveway. Twelve hours later, it was put into a container in the Port of Montreal and scheduled to be loaded onto a ship.
In October 2021, the same day Louise Gagnon reported the theft in Dorval, Quebec, detectives called her and said her Honda CR-V and three other cars had been recovered with the help of GPS trackers. It was said that it was done.
However, thieves who rushed to load the container had damaged the hood and rear cargo door.
“I could see the lift truck marks, there were scratches on the sides, and I tried to pry the locks open,” recalls Gagnon.
They also remotely reprogrammed their mother’s brand new Nissan Rogue, but it was parked in the garage and the door could not be opened.
Gagnon had to wait another eight months for the car to be repaired and returned.
Thousands of people whose cars are stolen never see them again. Experts say the slowdown in new car production during the pandemic has contributed to the recent spike in thefts.
In Montreal alone, police said 9,591 vehicles were stolen last year, up from 6,527 in 2021, with many leaving the country. SUVs and pickup trucks among the most stolen.
Industry representatives and experts argue that auto theft is not a victimless crime.
Stolen cars drive up insurance premiums and fund organized crime in Canada and abroad, they say.
Payments by Quebec insurers surged to $269 million in the first nine months of 2022, from about $111 million in 2018, according to the Insurance Commission of Canada.
hidden in a container
Montreal, the largest port on Canada’s east coast, has acted as an important hub for the export of goods and has seen an increase in stolen vehicles, experts say.
Auto industry representatives say authorities need to do more to crack down on the problem.
David Adams, president and CEO of Global Automakers of Canada, said it was no secret that large numbers of stolen vehicles were passing through the port of Montreal.
“The question is how serious this situation must be, or how much worse it must get, before the authorities can actually take any action.
Adams suggested that more enforcement was needed to prevent the vehicle from being exported.
However, the sheer volume of goods and the size of the port make it a daunting task. With a total length of 30 km, it regularly handles more than 1.5 million containers per year.
A port worker, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, suggested that the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) did not conduct enough spot checks.
“They aren’t in port very often,” they said.
“Imagine having to fly everywhere and when you get to the airport, you only check once in a while. .”
CBSA did not disclose how many containers it scans, but a spokesperson said documents are reviewed for every container at the port. A small percentage is set aside for further investigation.
CBSA’s role at the port is to detect contraband such as drugs, firearms and stolen goods including stolen vehicles.
Salvatore Barbieri, CBSA director for the port, acknowledged that it could be a challenge given the volume of goods being imported and exported.
“We need to do a risk assessment on the volume of containers coming into Montreal,” he said.
He said CBSA agents examine export declarations to identify suspicious containers, looking for red flags related to cargo destinations and shipping lines’ performance.
Officers can also act on clues received from police and intelligence agencies.
If you have questions about your shipment, we can open the container for spot checks or scan it with CBSA’s Large Imaging Truck so that authorities can X-ray inspect the contents.
Check your vehicle’s identification number (known as a VIN) to see if your vehicle has been reported stolen or illegally modified.
CBSA seized 1,050 stolen vehicles at the port last year. This is up from 269 five years ago.
Most of these vehicles originally come from the Montreal and Toronto areas, according to CBSA, but more and more vehicles are being stolen from ports as far afield as Calgary and Edmonton, CBSA said. increase.
Barbieri did not directly answer questions about whether the CBSA has sufficient resources to deal with the increase in stolen vehicles being exported. But he said there are dozens of officers working in rotation at the terminal.
When further questioned whether there have been any increases in funding or personnel, a CBSA spokesperson said that while their budget remained stable, the agency “has the operational flexibility to adapt to our threats and services.” We will strategically allocate resources when needed to meet demand,” he said. “
The Port of Montreal declined an interview request. A spokesperson said the site has more than 350 of his cameras and is monitored 24 hours a day.
A spokesperson said the port is working closely with the RCMP, CBSA and local police to prevent imports and exports of contraband.
To Italy and beyond
Interpol’s Criminal Intelligence Officer Renato Schipani said it was difficult to know exactly how many stolen cars were shipped from Montreal, but the number of cars found abroad from Canada was increasing. There is
“Hundreds of Canadian cars stolen in Italy were transported to the Middle East via Italy, and then hundreds of Canadian cars were traced and found in West Africa,” the theft.
Ah Recent research CBC’s market Vehicles stolen in Ontario and Quebec were found openly advertised and sold in West African countries, including Nigeria and Ghana.
Generally speaking, Schipani said border guards tend to focus more on imports than exports, making them vulnerable to stolen goods being shipped abroad.
But Schipani said the unconfirmed export of stolen vehicles could have serious consequences and fund further criminal activity. He said Interpol has linked the car theft ring with drug trafficking, arms trafficking, smuggling and international terrorism.
“This is not a Canadian problem or an American problem, it is a universal problem,” he said.
He said greater coordination between private companies, local law enforcement and ports around the world would help.
new technology, new problems
Thieves tend to target newer cars that use push-to-start ignitions, making them particularly vulnerable to theft, according to experts.
Brian Gust, vice president of investigative services for the Equite Association, a group representing insurance companies, said high-tech tools allow thieves to easily bypass security systems, remotely access key fobs, He said he could reprogram the key fob.
“Technology has evolved as criminals have been able to steal these vehicles and circumvent their systems,” Gust, a former police officer, said.
“We work with automakers. They are very interested in identifying vulnerabilities. The difficulty is that technology changes rapidly.”
Gast said many of these thefts require a high degree of coordination and skill.
Some scout popular vehicles, steal them, and load them into containers and ships.
“Identifying a vehicle before it is actually exported out of the country is the preferred method, but obviously you can’t get everything,” he said.
“We are starting to see Canada becoming the country of origin for these thefts.”
See | How to prevent car theft:
Montreal police declined a request for an interview. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson said the best way to curb the rise in vehicle theft is prevention, not arrest.
A spokesperson said that if all vehicle owners had anti-theft systems such as tracking systems and on-board diagnostic protection (OBD), “the number of thefts would drop significantly.”
what can i do?
Both the insurance industry and the police encourage people to take steps to protect their cars, but even those who take precautions have their cars stolen.
Last October, Amelie Dubois’ Jeep Wrangler was stolen from the parking lot of Montreal’s La Ronde amusement park.
The jeep had a GPS tracking device, but the thief removed it. Her son found the parts on the ground, Dubois said.
“I had all my security supplies there, but they were stolen no matter what,” she said.
Just before Christmas, she got a call from the Montreal police telling them that customs officers had found the Jeep in a shipping container at the Halifax port. To her surprise, they told her her car was intact and was bound for the Dominican Republic.
“Everyone said my car was probably in pieces or far away,” Dubois said.
Gagnon got a Kevlar pouch to block the signal on her key fob because her Honda CR-V was stolen.
But she worries about how safe her SUV will be when she comes to Montreal next week for the funeral.
She lives in a relative’s apartment with a guest parking lot.
“I can see the parking lot from where she is, but I can’t sit there all night and see my car,” Gagnon said with a laugh.
“Still, what can I do? Shout on the balcony? ‘Leave my car alone!’ They don’t care.” “