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Toronto police recover more than 1,000 stolen cars, lay hundreds of charges

Toronto police recovered more than 1,000 cars stolen from city residents, the force announced on Wednesday, marking the end of a nearly yearlong investigation into car thefts.

Project Stallion, which was operational between November 2022 and September 2023, has led to the recovery of 1,080 vehicles with a combined value of more than $59 million, said Supt. Ron Taverner.

He says the project has also resulted in 553 charges against 228 people, at least 20 of whom are under the age of 18. 

"These results demonstrate how seriously we're taking this issue," Taverner said.

"But we recognize that for many people in the city, their vehicles may never be recovered, and more importantly, their feelings of safety and security have been compromised."

The end of the project comes as the city continues to grapple with a rise in vehicle thefts. So far in 2023, 9,747 vehicles have been stolen in Toronto. Over the course of the investigation, more than 3,500 vehicles were stolen in two police divisions alone — those representing Etobicoke and North West Toronto.

It also follows last week's announcement that the Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto police forces were creating a joint provincial task force aimed at addressing a rise in carjackings. At the time, they said there have been roughly 300 carjackings reported in the GTA so far this year, over 200 of those taking place in Toronto. 

"I want to assure you that this issue will be top of mind for our officers in our community," Taverner said.

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Young people involved in many of the thefts, police say

"Younger and younger people" are behind many of these thefts, Taverner said. And while individual thefts do take place, he says the force is trying to target its investigations into the larger groups behind these organized operations.

"This all revolves around money. It's a lucrative business for people, they're being re-sold, they're being shipped overseas ... there's all kinds of things that are taking place," Taverner said, noting that of the cars recovered, about 95 per cent were found in Canada and a "great number" of them were in the process of being shipped to Montreal.

While hundreds of people were arrested and charged, Taverner said most of them are considered on the "lower-end" of the crime spectrum.

"It's very difficult to get to the head of the snake, proverbially," he said. "We're working on those types of things."

Chief Myron Demkiw said the project represents "only one of the strategic and intelligence-led" initiatives the service has launched to tackle the problem of auto thefts in Toronto and across the GTA.

He called on car manufacturers and the shipping industry to "step up and get in the game," saying that police are just one part of the solution.

"There are a number of players who have a role to play in stopping the flow of stolen goods from our country abroad, and the complexity of unpacking that and dealing with that from an enforcement perspective takes all hands on deck," he said.