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Canada's auto theft crisis creates soaring demand for tracking systems

In 2023, a car was stolen in Canada every five minutes, with two-thirds occurring in Ontario and Quebec.

From Automotive News Canada | David Kenndy

Canada’s auto theft crisis has made cold calling customers a thing of the past for Richard Cleroux.

The director of sales at Tag Tracking in Montreal has gone from pitching the company’s vehicle locating and recovery system to skeptical dealership managers to stickhandling a flurry of requests from retailers desperate to get the technology in front of buyers.



Tag Tracking’s system uses radio frequency (RF) technology. Its miniature transmitters use the same type of signal as FM radio.

The company puts multiple tracking units in the vehicles, Cleroux said. "We don’t put the same amount, so thieves don’t know how many we have," Cleroux said.

The transmitters’ appearance and installers’ usual hiding spots are kept under wraps. When a driver reports a theft, Tag traces the signal to the nearest antenna, or tower. The company then dispatches a team to pinpoint exactly where the signal is coming from

The recovery teams, are often led to specific shipping containers where the transmitting vehicle is found with other stolen vehicles, Cleroux said.


Cellutrak, a subsidiary of Israel’s Ituran Location and Control Ltd., uses GPS technology created for the military that has been adapted for commercial purposes

Unlike RF technology, which requires boots on the ground to locate a stolen vehicle, Cellutrak allows users to follow their vehicle through a mobile or web-based app. It also lets an owner geofence locations such as a driveway or workplace. If the vehicle leaves that area, the user is notified and can quickly get law enforcement involved. The system can also remotely disable the vehicle starter.



While the tracking systems offer some respite for buyers — and window decals warning prospective crooks that the vehicles will be traced might deter some thefts — the “primary objective” needs to be prevention, Publow said.

Myers Automotive is actively engaged with one of its local councillors to help push for a wider solution.

David Hill, councillor for Ottawa’s Barrhaven West ward — one of the hardest-hit areas of the city for auto theft — has been advocating for private and public actors to tackle the issue.

“This is not a problem that one entity in and of itself is going to be able to solve,” Hill said. “This is a team sport.” Tracking is one piece of the puzzle, yet jurisdictional issues with law enforcement can sometimes prevent police from making recoveries, even when a victim knows the location of a vehicle, he said.

The Ottawa Police Service has officers dedicated to auto theft, Hill said, and they will continue to place “appropriate focus” on the problem.

It’s going to take time to address the wider issue, but by attending February’s national auto summit, he said, it was clear the automotive and insurance industries, as well as governments at all levels, are coming together to address the gaps.


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