The Ontario government has announced an investment of $18 million over three years aimed at bolstering efforts to combat auto theft within the province. The initiative, named the Preventing Auto Thefts (PAT) grant, aims to support police services in implementing measures to prevent, detect, analyze, and enforce actions against auto theft while prioritizing community safety and property protection.
Among the recipients of the grant are the Brockville Police Service and the Gananoque Police Service, which will receive a combined $515,826.
“This investment will help our police services crack down on the growing problem of auto theft, dismantle organized crime networks and get these criminals off the streets and behind bars where they belong,” said Premier Doug Ford in a media release.
According to the Ontario government, from 2014 to 2021, there was a 72 per cent increase in auto theft across the province, plus a 14 per cent increase in the last year alone. In addition, car thefts in Ontario increased by 31 per cent in the first six months of 2023, when compared to the same period in 2022.
The funding allocated for police projects encompasses various aspects:
- Acquisition of specialized resources like surveillance equipment, software, and GPS tracking devices.
- Provision of tailored training programs to enhance the skill sets of police investigators specifically for addressing auto theft cases.
- Establishment of new units dedicated to combatting auto theft, including cross-jurisdictional units aimed at breaking down silos between different police services to tackle organized criminal activities more effectively.
- Expansion of data collection and analysis efforts to gather comprehensive metrics related to the linkage between auto theft and organized crime, among other criminal activities.
- Formation of partnerships with entities such as the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Canadian Automobile Association, and local car dealerships to facilitate information and resource sharing, as well as the development of efficient prevention strategies and public education campaigns.
“Every 14 minutes a vehicle is stolen in Ontario, and this investment will give police services the tools they need to successfully fight auto theft across the province,” said Solicitor General Michael Kerzner. “With increased efforts and tactics used by thieves and criminal networks, our government is staying one step ahead. This grant will enable police services to work with key partners to enhance knowledge and resources, improve investigations and gather evidence to hold criminals accountable.”
The PAT grant forms part of a comprehensive strategy employed by Ontario to combat auto theft, including the recent establishment of the Organized Crime Towing and Auto Theft Team and the Major Auto Theft Prosecution Response Team. Additionally, the government is exploring partnerships with various agencies such as the Canada Border Services Agency, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, shipping container companies, and rail companies to further tackle vehicle theft.
The PAT grant falls under the Ontario government’s community safety grant programs, offering funding opportunities for police services to collaborate with local and provincial partners on safety priorities. Eligibility for the PAT grant was open to all municipal, First Nations police services, and Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) contract and non-contract locations, accessible through a competitive grant application process.