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Toronto police combatting car theft with camera-equipped cars that scan for stolen license plates

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Toronto Police investigators have beefed up their arsenal in the battle against car thieves.

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They’re now using cars that look pretty much like normal police cruisers, except the vehicles are equipped with roof cameras instead of flashing lights.

The cars, driven by parking enforcement officers, roam the city’s streets using infrared cameras to take pictures of every vehicle they come across with the aim of finding licence plates that are reported stolen.

Licence plate recognition software spots stolen plates immediately, and officers then follow up.

As of March 1, there had been 1,306 cases of auto theft in 2022, according to TPS public safety data. During the same time period, there were 919 vehicle thefts last year,  933 in 2020, and 876 in 2019.

Toronto Police tips to safeguard your vehicle, include parking in well-lit areas, locking all valuables in the trunk, and keeping your vehicle in a locked garage when at home, if possible.

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Councillor Mike Colle in December called on the province to create a dedicated police unit to decrease auto thefts.

Colle cited Insurance Bureau of Canada statistics that automobile theft claims in Ontario increased 55% between 2016 and 2020.

There have been some recent successes, with a multi-jurisdictional bust resulting in the recovery of 200 stolen vehicles and the arrest of 24 people in the GTA and Montreal.

And on Feb. 1, “Project Taurus,” an eight-month investigation, resulted in seven arrests of people alleged to be in a “somewhat sophisticated” group responsible for at least 28 carjackings of high-end vehicles in Toronto.

Toronto Police say the most commonly stolen vehicles are Honda CR-Vs, Lexus RX 350s and Honda Civics.

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