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South Simcoe sees 200-plus auto thefts since late 2021

There were 146 and 80 vehicles stolen in Bradford and Innisfil, respectively, between Nov. 1, 2021 and Jan. 19, 2024, data obtained from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation shows
Data from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation shows there were 146 and 80 vehicles stolen in Bradford and Innisfil, respectively, between Nov. 1, 2021 and Jan. 19, 2024.

If you haven’t done so yet, it may finally be time to take a few anti-theft measures for your car, truck or SUV.

BradfordToday and InnisfilToday recently obtained data from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, which shows there were 146 and 80 vehicles stolen in Bradford and Innisfil, respectively, between Nov. 1, 2021 and Jan. 19, 2024.

These were reported by their owners as being permanently taken — in other words, they’ve accepted they’ll never see the vehicles again, filed an insurance claim and reported the loss to the ministry.

South Simcoe Police Service Det.-Sgt. Clint McLellan works in the department’s street crime unit. He says the ministry numbers are similar to what South Simcoe has on record.

While most local police agencies have resources dedicated to tackling auto thefts, it has become increasingly tough to catch suspects, who are often working as part of a larger organized crime group.

“In terms of identifying a pattern, it is difficult,” said McLellan. “There’s different crews out stealing cars. They adapt very quickly to overcome preventative measures. The problem is, these groups move so quickly. You take down one and another pops up somewhere else. It’s a little defeating, but we’ve got to keep doing as much as we can. Auto theft is a huge problem right now.”

During those two-plus years, the ministry says the most popular vehicle taken in Bradford was the Dodge Ram 1500 (15 thefts), followed by the Toyota Highlander (nine) and Dodge Caravan (five). Innisfil’s list includes the Highlander and the Jeep Grand Cherokee (five each).

Tap the brakes on that data, though. McLellan says he was “shocked” to look at recent information suggesting Ford F-150s are now highly coveted.

“In our area, F-150s are going,” he said. “In January and February this year, it’s been overwhelmingly 2020 and (newer-model) F-150s.”

Also of note, between 2003 and early 2024, a total of 428 and 279 vehicles were stolen in Bradford and Innisfil, respectively. Bradford’s highest year for thefts was 2022, when 57 vehicles were taken. Innisfil’s busiest period was 2021, with 31 vehicles stolen.

McLellan said Bradford likely has more of this criminal activity because the population is densely packed, comparatively, and the municipality is located closer to the Greater Toronto Area, where these vehicles are taken and either put into shipping containers and transported overseas or given fake VIN numbers and sent to other Canadian markets for resale.

So, what can be done here? South Simcoe police have employed two crime analysts to look for trends. As well, they launched a joint auto theft task force in collaboration with Barrie police earlier this week, dedicating two constables to the initiative.

But McLellan is also urging residents to be vigilant and report potential criminal activity in their neighbourhoods.

“The success we’ve had has been from members of the public reaching out immediately when they see something that’s suspicious,” he said, noting one recent case where several vehicles had been taken from a neighbourhood was solved after someone caught the alleged suspect in the act. “They saw somebody suspiciously looking into a vehicle and actively stealing (it).”

Residents should also place key fobs in protective pouches in areas nearer to the back of the home — since thieves have tools to intercept close-range keyless-entry radio signals that are then used to unlock and start vehicles.

As well, consider investing in a diagnostic port lock, a steering wheel lock like The Club or a pedal lock.

“This is a numbers game; they don’t want to have a hard time stealing,” McLellan said. “I don’t really have a catch-all solution, but if you can implement as many of these measures as you can, it’ll help to slow them down. Hopefully, they’ll move on to a different car.”

Chris Simon

About the Author: Chris Simon

Chris Simon is an award-winning journalist who has written for publications throughout Simcoe County and York Region. He is the current Editor of BradfordToday and InnisfilToday and has about two decades of experience in the sector
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