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Police warn of Lexus, Toyota SUV theft spree

More than 80 of the vehicles, which are in high demand overseas, have been stolen from residential driveways across the region

Investigators with the York Regional Police Auto/Cargo Theft Unit are providing crime prevention tips after more than 80 vehicles of a specific make and model have been stolen in York Region. Full text of a news release issued today by York Regional Police follows:

Over the past year, York Regional Police has been investigating the theft of 81 Lexus and Toyota sport utility vehicles (SUV) from residential driveways. The majority of these thefts have occurred between midnight and 6 a.m. 

The targeted vehicles include newer model Lexus RX350, Lexus GX460, Toyota 4Runner and Toyota Highlanders. These vehicles are in high demand overseas and after they are stolen, they’re placed into shipping containers and for the most part, sent to North Africa. These vehicles also have no tracking capability from the manufacturer or dealership, making recovery difficult once the vehicle is stolen.

Thieves have been using tools like screwdrivers to gain access into the driver or passenger doors, while ensuring not to set off alarms. Once inside, an electronic device, typically used by mechanics to reprogram the factory setting, is connected to a port below the dashboard and programs the vehicle to accept a key the thieves have brought with them. Once the new key is programmed, the vehicle will start and the thieves drive it away. The entire process only takes between 10 to 20 minutes.

Investigators are asking owners of these types of vehicles to consider the following safety tips to help prevent their vehicles from being stolen:

  • If possible, park your vehicle in a locked garage, as the majority of the vehicles have been stolen from driveways
  • Place a second vehicle behind your Lexus or Toyota SUV in the driveway.This obstacle acts as a physical barrier that will make the thieves continue past your residence and look for an easier target
  • Use a steering wheel lock. It will also act as a visible deterrent that can be used on the vehicle overnight making thieves reconsider stealing your vehicle
  • Install a lock on the data port. This simple device can be purchased online and blocks access to the computer port where the thieves gain access to reprogram the vehicle’s keys.
  • Invest in an aftermarket global positioning system (GPS) tracker or have one installed by the dealer. This will not prevent theft, but may assist in recovery of the vehicle and your belongings
  • Consider purchasing a quality video surveillance system. Ensure your cameras are properly placed and functioning for day and night time use. Familiarize yourself with the operation of the system so it can be reviewed and accessed immediately

For more information contact the York Regional Police Auto/Cargo Theft Unit at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 6651, or call Corporate Communications at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 2664.