Exploring the Involvement of Organized Crime in Motor Vehicle Theft

Thursday, May 27, 2004 – While thieves steal the majority of motor vehicles for thrill-seeking or transportation, about one in five thefts in 2002 were believed to have been committed by organized groups, according to a new report.

About 161,000 motor vehicles were stolen in Canada in 2002, down 5% from the previous year. While it is difficult to estimate the prevalence of organized vehicle theft, the number of stolen vehicles that are not recovered has been used as a proxy measure by police.

Vehicles stolen for thrill-seeking, transportation or to commit a further crime are generally abandoned once they have served their purpose, and are later found by police. Those stolen by organized crime groups tend not to be recovered as they are often exported overseas, transported for interprovincial resale or stripped for the sale of parts.

While the highest rates of total motor vehicle theft are seen in Western Canada, most of these vehicles are later recovered by police. This suggests they were primarily stolen for thrill-seeking or transportation purposes.

Data from 22 large police services indicate that Montr�al had the highest rate of non-recovered stolen vehicles. Its rate of stolen vehicles not recovered in 2002 was twice that of Halifax, the city with the next highest rate.

High rates of stolen vehicles that were not recovered were also found in London, Ottawa-Gatineau and the Toronto area. The lowest rates were reported in St. John’s, Victoria and Regina.

Over one-third of all vehicles stolen from private homes and car dealerships are not recovered, compared with 10% of vehicles stolen from streets and 15% from parking lots. This may be the result of organized thieves targeting high-value vehicles from specific locations.

Source: Statistics Canada’s Internet Site at http://www.statcan.ca

Statistics Canada information is used with the permission of Statistics Canada. Users are forbidden to copy the data and redisseminate them, in an original or modified form, for commercial purposes, without the expressed permission of Statistics Canada. Information on the availability of the wide range of data from Statistics Canada can be obtained from Statistics Canada’s Regional Offices, its World Wide Web site at http://www.statcan.ca, and its toll-free access number 1-800-263-1136.

Stolen vehicles not recovered, select police services1


Police service Population Number of stolen vehicles Percentage of vehicles not recovered Rate2of vehicles not recovered
Montréal 1,853,489 14,999 44 354
Halifax 200,928 1,268 24 151
London 346,372 2,639 18 141
Ottawa 817,375 3,490 32 135
York Region 818,013 2,472 39 118
Gatineau-Métro 219,717 773 33 117
Toronto 2,614,956 10,258 25 97
Vancouver 580,094 5,709 9 84
Kingston 115,205 314 30 81
Barrie 106,132 419 20 78
Calgary 915,453 4,799 13 70
Winnipeg 631,620 9,321 5 69
Edmonton 666,739 5,664 8 65
Saskatoon 206,922 991 13 63
Sûreté du Québec 2,222,572 4,351 29 58
Greater Sudbury 159,316 613 23 51
Windsor 214,348 872 11 45
Thunder Bay 118,086 198 25 41
Regina 184,661 2,754 3 40
Victoria 75,424 506 5 31
St. John’s 176,619 326 10 19
Royal Canadian Mounted Police 35,799 10
Not applicable.
1. Police services included in this table accounted for 72% of all vehicle thefts reported to police in 2002, as captured by the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey.
2. Rates are calculated on the basis of 100,000 population.