Over 100 charges laid as police bust huge carjacking ring near Toronto
Never has the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) felt more like Grand Theft Auto (also GTA) than during 2022, when a rash of carjacking incidents swept the region unlike anything seen before.
With more than a month left in the year, the number of auto thefts reported in Toronto alone for all of 2022 is up 43 per cent over the year previous. Robberies and incidents of theft over $5,000 have seen a similar spike over the past year in the City of Toronto, up 32.5 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.
"Multiple jurisdictions across the GTA have seen a marked increase in carjackings during and post the COVID-19 pandemic," wrote York Regional Police (YRP) on Tuesday when announcing the result of a massive carjacking bust.
"These often-violent crimes of opportunity, many involving armed suspects, continue to cause havoc in our communities and pose serious risk to public safety. Many of the carjacked vehicles once stolen are often used to commit other violent crimes such as retail robberies and other carjackings."
In an effort to combat the problem, YRP initiated a joint-forces project called "Operation GTA" in June 2022. The task force was led by York Region with help from other jurisdictions including the OPP, Toronto Police Service, Durham Regional Police Service, Halton Regional Police Service, Peel Regional Police and Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario.
The purpose of the investigation was to identify and target what police desribed as "the criminal networks responsible for funding and fueling the increase in violent carjackings across the Greater Toronto Area."
Fortunately, investigators were able to make quick progress through the task force, executing multiple search warrants on Oct. 11 and 12, arresting 16 people, and laying 116 charges.
Many of the people on a charge list provided by police are in their early twenties. The oldest suspect in the group is 30 and the youngest is only 19.
As part of the bust, investigators were able to recover 19 stolen cars worth about $1.4 million in total. An additional 50 vehicles with altered vehicle identification numbers (VINs) were found to be worth about $5 million.
"Investigators believe that some of these vehicles have been resold to unsuspecting buyers," warned police of the stolen goods.
"A crime prevention and social media campaign was also integrated as part of the task force strategy, where investigators connected with large segments of the population and reached more than one million followers."
Police have blamed the activities of organized crime groups and keyless fob technology, among other factors, for the recent uptick in stolen cars in Toronto.
Four employees of Service Ontario were even charged this summer as part of a huge car theft ring bust that saw 242 charges laid against 28 people in Toronto, Durham, Halton, Peel and York.
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