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Operation Auto Guard

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A man in a police uniform speaks at a podium

Auto Guard used data to drive the fight against car theft

Results announced at December 8 media conference

York Regional Police is proud to release the results of a seven-week initiative, dubbed Operation Auto Guard, targeting auto theft with a combined campaign of crime prevention efforts and enforcement in the southern end of York Region.

Launched in September, Operation Auto Guard resulted in 56 people charged with 284 offences. Eighty vehicles were recovered, worth more than $5 million. Theft devices used by thieves were also seized.

Auto theft has increased in York Region more than 200 per cent over the last five years. As of December 4, 2023, 4,294 vehicles have been stolen in York Region, compared to 3,187 in 2022. Thieves operate across the region, the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario and Canada, in organized crime groups, stealing the vehicles then shipping them overseas. The cost of these thefts is estimated to be more than $1 billion across the country.

Operation Auto Guard was data driven and intelligence led, with our crime analysts creating heat maps identifying specific neighbourhoods prone to vehicle thefts in the Cities of Markham, Richmond and Vaughan. We were able to identify residences in these red zones with high-risk vehicles registered to their owners. This allowed us to approach homeowners directly, letting them know they are at risk of having their vehicles stolen, offering them safety tips and giving them the opportunity to take an active role in crime prevention.

Operation included proactive messaging

A woman holds a Faraday bagOur focus on crime prevention included having officers from our Auxiliary, Community Services and Community Oriented Response Units fan out across these neighbourhoods, handing out cards with crime prevention tips in multiple languages and giving away more than 24,000 Faraday bags, used to block the signal-duplicating devices that replicate key fobs. Officers also distributed Faraday bags when conducting traffic stops and while attending various community forums and events.

During the operation, police attended more than 100 locations, where we educated citizens on auto thefts and how to prevent them and protect themselves, including at town hall community forums, religious institutions, malls, parking lots and car dealerships. We believe our proactive activities had a significant impact, in our community at large, but also in the specific neighbourhoods being victimized.

“We recognize we need multiple strategies across all levels of government, law enforcement, community agencies and our citizens to end auto thefts,” said Chief Jim MacSween. “Congratulations to the many officers and civilian police professionals who contributed to the success of Operation Auto Guard.”

We remind our community partners and residents that crime prevention is a shared responsibility and safer communities the result.