From Councillor David Hill
Barrhaven is at the forefront of Ottawa’s auto theft epidemic. Last year over 1,800 vehicles were stolen in our city, contributing to over $700 million worth of losses across Ontario. I have been advocating for improved interagency co-operation on this issue for months. Effective and immediate action is required, and I am working with City and local leadership to take the necessary actions to do so. One of the first steps in that process will begin this Thursday, when I will represent Ottawa as Deputy Mayor, along with Chief of Police Eric Stubbs, at the National Summit on Combatting Auto Theft.
We do not need to re-invent the wheel to address this crisis. There are proven regulatory reforms that could reduce the lucrative payoff from vehicle thefts, but only if we implement those regulations across all three levels of government in every jurisdiction of this country. This will be my principal point to Federal representatives this week at the summit.
What would an effective regulatory response look like? Let’s start with a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) registration program in Ontario and nationally like that of Alberta and Saskatchewan. This program requires that all vehicles have up to date VINs. While all vehicles are expected to have an identification number in every province, in rare cases the regular wear and tear over the vehicle’s life cycle can cause these numbers to be worn down or otherwise unreadable. Criminals take advantage of lax requirements in most Canadian jurisdictions to damage the VINs from stolen vehicles and then re-sell them with little way to confirm whether the original VIN matches what is on the new paperwork. Alberta and Saskatchewan require VINs to be replaced if unreadable and for the vehicle to have its VIN confirmed with each re-sale, making it easier for police to track stolen vehicles. The first year of VIN implementation in Saskatchewan resulted in a 30% reduction of stolen vehicles. This program is a proven long-term deterrent to falsification of vehicles onto the Registry; one of the primary ways to distribute stolen vehicles within Canada.
Increasing penalties associated with vehicle owner data theft and leakage would reduce the likelihood of insider fraud as was seen two years ago when Service Ontario employees were arrested for coordinating the breach of vehicle registration data to organized crime. Additionally, better Registration information sharing between security and regulatory organizations like CBSA, CPIC, and security agencies would enable tracking and oversight enforcement at borders and key ports such as at Montreal and with our US counterparts.
Speaking of ports, increasing punitive measures for private shipping companies holding stolen cargo should be reviewed as well. There should be strong incentives to eliminate the transnational shipment of stolen vehicles to include severe fines, suspension/retraction of shipping licenses and potentially seizure of corporate assets. In addition to harsher regulations, more resources are needed desperately to secure stolen vehicles before they leave our ports and evade the reach of Canadian law enforcement for good.
This problem is not one that can be addressed by only government action. Vehicle manufacturers need to work closely with the insurance sector and government authorities to ensure that technology advancements have safeguards in place to deny key cloning, enable tracking and automatic shut-off systems, and to support VIN and registration programmes.
Effectively combating auto theft in Ottawa and nationwide necessitates a collaborative effort between the private and public sectors. It is crucial for us to work together in formulating and enforcing practical policies to address this issue comprehensively. This is precisely the outcome that I am looking to get this week at the National Summit on Combatting Auto Theft where my call to action will be: Develop an interagency Task Force, codify a VIN program, update regulations and processes to a consistent standard country wide, increase federal funding for auto theft law enforcement, improve technological defenses, and to increase port scrutiny.
Finally, this summit sets the stage for real and meaningful collaboration nationwide. Locally, the police are working hard to enhance their presence in the suburbs, and I will continue to advocate for the resources and funding necessary to make that a reality. I am excited by the opportunity this summit represents but I will be going into the meetings this week clear eyed about the scope of this problem and the hard work still to come