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By Blair Qualey

In May, the federal government unveiled a National Action Plan on Combating Auto Theft, underlining the growing level of concern about this issue.

The strategy includes legislative amendments such as stricter penalties for crimes associated with violence, organized crime, and money laundering, and a renewed focus on the importance of intelligence sharing among municipal, provincial, federal, and international law enforcement bodies. The Federal Government also designated $28 million to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to boost its capabilities in inspecting shipping containers, a vital step in preventing stolen vehicles from leaving our ports.

Auto theft in Canada resulted in over $1.5 billion in insurance costs in 2023, marking the second consecutive year the figure has exceeded $1 billion. And while it represents a national problem, British Columbia has achieved notable success in reducing these crimes. Auto theft rates in BC have significantly dropped from their peak in the early 2000s, when the province had an average of 88 cars stolen daily in 2003. Today, that number has fallen by 75%.

The latest available Statistics Canada figures (2022) indicate that BC had the lowest per capita rate of auto theft among the larger provinces in Canada. Only Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland & Labrador had lower rates. Data for individual cities also showed a theft rate of 137 per 100,000 in Vancouver, compared to 330 in Toronto, and 471 in Montreal.

BC’s relative success is largely attributed to the efforts of the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT) and coordinated efforts with other local law enforcement agencies. The IMPACT team’s strategies, including the use of bait cars and vehicle tracking technology, play a significant role in BC’s fight against auto theft — which is why this province is faring better than some other provinces, even considering BC’s three major shipping ports.

However, we can’t become complacent. Thefts in Eastern Canada are high-tech, involving the hacking of electronics, creating new key fobs, and shipping vehicles overseas. While this isn’t happening to the same extent in Western Canada, it may only be a matter of time, so owners need to be aware of how and why these newer vehicles are being stolen.

Partnerships between local law enforcement and provincial and national task forces will need to be strengthened and expanded — collaboration is crucial to overcoming auto theft.

New Car Dealers have a vital role in this ongoing battle by continuing to educate consumers about the importance of safeguarding vehicles. Simple measures like locking cars, using steering wheel locks, and utilizing tracking devices or immobilizers can significantly reduce the risk of theft.

We must support and engage law enforcement and policymakers to ensure that the national action plan translates into tangible, real-world outcomes. The federal government’s initiative is a promising start, but sustained efforts and collaboration at all levels will be essential for making a lasting impact. By working together, staying informed, and taking proactive steps, we can help protect our communities and turn the tide against vehicle theft in BC and across Canada.


Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at [email protected].