Tracking devices help police recover two stolen vehicles in Oakville


Published November 10, 2023 at 3:44 pm

auto theft

Two vehicles recently stolen from Oakville were quickly recovered because owners had placed aftermarket tracking devices in them – one way, say Halton Police, to combat the dramatic rise in auto thefts.

Police say the sharp spike in stolen cars coincide with an ongoing global vehicle shortage brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which made stealing them a lucrative revenue stream for organized crime.

Five years ago there were 461 stolen vehicles reported in Halton. That number nearly tripled by 2022 with 1,167 vehicles stolen in the region. There have already been 800 auto thefts to date in 2023 with more than seven weeks to go in the year.

Halton Police say they have committed “considerable resources” to fight auto theft and have employed a multi-pronged approach, which includes response, education, partnerships and social development to combat it at home and beyond.

In January 2023, the service launched a Regional Auto Theft Task Force, which recovered nearly 400 stolen vehicles, arrested more than 50 individuals, and laid almost 240 related criminal charges in its first four months.

HRPS has also recognized the transborder nature of auto theft – a shipment of stolen cars found in a Burlington warehouse recently were likely bound for Africa – and have partnered with police agencies throughout Ontario, the Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP, as well as all levels of government, manufacturers and insurance bureaus.

Earlier this year Halton Police joined other law enforcement agencies and industry stakeholders at a national Auto Summit aimed at strategically targeting auto thieves.

Halton Police have also launched Project Oxygen, a collaborative initiative with automobile dealerships in Oakville, Burlington and Milton that encourages residents to place third-party trackers (such as an Apple Air Tag, Tile, Galaxy Smart Tag or Atuvos) inside their vehicles to increase its chance of being recovered in the event it is stolen.

Auto theft is also now part of the HRPS educational outreach to youth in Halton schools who may be vulnerable to recruitment by organized car thieves.

The two most common ways vehicles are currently stolen and re-sold is through reprogramming and/or re-vinning.

With reprogramming. thieves target high-end, newer-model vehicles with keyless entry and push-start technology. The majority of these vehicles are parked in residential driveways and are taken during the overnight hours.

The thefts occur when thieves take an image of an automobile’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – which is visible through the front windshield – and pre-load it into a reprogramming device. Vehicles are then entered by force to access their diagnostic system/electronic control modules. Within minutes, thieves are able to reprogram a vehicle, activate its ignition, and drive off. Many of the vehicles re then shipped overseas for re-sale.

Re-Vinning involves changing a vehicle’s VIN to a fabricated number to conceal the fact that it is had been stolen.

Halton Police offers several tips to drivers to protect their cars from theft:

  • Install an after-market GPS tracking device
  • Park your vehicle in a locked garage
  • Block the exit of a potential target vehicle with a second
  • Use a steering wheel lock device
  • Install an on-board diagnostic blocker/protector
  • Install home security cameras on the exterior of the residence
  • Consider the price. If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

For more on what Halton Police is doing to fight against car thieves, visit #CPWeek2023

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