More than 2,000 vehicles were stolen from driveways and parking lots across York Region last year — a "sharp increase" from the past two years, according to the York Regional Police's 2021 annual report.
These crimes can occur in as little as 60 seconds, police said.
"Tech-savvy thieves can break into your vehicle, reprogram its ignition system and drive off in less than a minute,” said Det. Sgt. Pat Smyth of the auto/cargo theft unit (ACTU). “Luxury vehicles are in high demand and many of these hot cars are destined for the international black market."
The unit's crackdown on these thefts resulted in more than 100 arrests and 350 recovered vehicles in 2021. This was accomplished through three major projects: Crockpot, Moose and Majestic.
In Project Majestic, $4.5 million worth of vehicles were recovered and a crime ring was identified that focused on stealing vehicles across the GTA by reprogramming the ignition computer to respond to a new key. The stolen vehicles were then taken to Montreal and sent to buyers in Africa and United Arab Emirates.
The investigation, which was carried out in partnership with neighbouring police forces, resulted in 73 stolen vehicles seized and charges laid.
Project Majestic was one of the many major operations outlined in the annual report. Others included Project Hammer focused on trafficking firearms, Project Cheetah that busted an organized crime group importing drugs into Canada, while Project Rise cracked down on residential break-ins, and more.
Vehicle theft is not the only crime that increased in 2021. Statistics from 2021 outlined in the report show an increase in many different crimes since 2020.
The number of crimes against people rose to 9,777 from 8,830 in 2020. Crimes against property were up to 22,504 compared to 21,340 in 2020. The number of hate crime incidents rose to 195 in 2021 from 160 in 2020. Drug violations and traffic violations also rose in 2021.
There were some decreases noted in the report. The number of weapons violations decreased from 535 in 2020 to 490 in 2021. The number of public morals violations also decreased in 2021 to 20, compared to 25 in 2020.
The annual report also covered highlights from each district, an overview of some of the impaired driving incidents captured on video last year, and changes to training and officer well-being.
"Working in law enforcement can place strains on mental and physical health that if ignored, can be harmful to one’s overall well-being. It is critical that our members receive the services and supports they need, when they need them,” said YRP chief psychologist Dr. Kyle Handley.
To help address this, a wellness centre opened in fall 2021 to offer peer support and psychological services and is the first of its kind in Canada, the report said.
YRP has also taken advantage of technology in 2021 with the introduction of the community safety portal that allows residents to access crime data online and the implementation of SPIDR Tech software to respond to reports of crimes through message or email.
2021 also saw the end of a three-year transformation of the force's organizational culture. The transformation resulted in a number of changes to policies, recruiting processes, and the code of ethics. Inclusion was a top priority. A consultative round table with the Black community was created in 2020.
“While we’ve made great progress, there’s much more work to do to eliminate racism in all of its ugly forms,” said Chief Jim MacSween. “We all need to work together to build a community that is safe, secure, welcoming and inclusive — a place where everyone feels they belong.”
The annual report was received by the York Regional Police Services Board at its monthly meeting on June 22. It has been posted online for residents to read.