Project Vector: A Major Blow to International Car Theft Mafia at Montreal Port

Project Vector: A Major Blow to International Car Theft Mafia at Montreal Port

Since December, a significant law enforcement initiative at the Montreal Port has resulted in the seizure of 598 vehicles reported as stolen, predominantly originating from southern Ontario and intended for international sales.

Named Project Vector, this comprehensive effort united over a dozen police entities from both Ontario and Quebec.

Marty Kearns, the Ontario Provincial Police's (OPP) deputy commissioner, highlighted at a press briefing in Montreal how Project Vector has effectively dismantled syndicates benefiting from the illicit trade of Canadian vehicles abroad.

This initiative marks a pivotal achievement in the ongoing battle against organized crime rings, implicated in the noticeable uptick of vehicle thefts throughout Eastern Canada, according to police statements.

Within the scope of this operation, law enforcement officials conducted extensive examinations of numerous shipping containers at the Montreal Port, leading to the discovery of vehicles primarily absconded from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Canadian authorities have seized 598 stolen vehicles at Montreal port | The  Independent

Kearns revealed that these automobiles, collectively valued at approximately $34.5 million, were destined for markets across various continents including Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South America.

Marc Hemmerick, an inspector with the OPP who played a role in the operation, indicated a connection between several of the confiscated vehicles and severe criminal activities.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation, Hemmerick pointed out that one of the retrieved vehicles was involved in an armed carjacking, while another was used in a home invasion shortly after its theft. Such incidents, he remarked, raise significant concerns for public safety.!/cpImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_780/que-car-theft-update-20240403.jpg

The recent period has seen a significant uptick in automobile thefts across Ontario and Quebec, with a 48% and 58% increase respectively from 2021 to 2023.

Authorities are intensifying their efforts against the organized crime groups responsible for this escalation in vehicle thefts.

Since October 2023, an array of substantial raids has resulted in the detention of no fewer than 121 individuals, culminating in 730 charges.

The revelation made on Wednesday stands as a noteworthy instance of law enforcement's crackdown on vehicle theft, with Hemmerick noting the operation has prompted numerous arrests and charges.

Despite the law enforcement's celebration of nearly 600 recovered vehicles, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec reported over 45,000 stolen cars in 2023 alone.

This rise in auto theft has prompted increased federal investments in policing across the nation.

Ontario police departments were bolstered with a $121 million federal grant in January, aimed specifically at curtailing the surge in vehicle thefts and hijackings, particularly in the GTA where 12,000 cars were reported stolen in 2023, marking a 24.4% increase from the year before.

Stolen vehicles worth $2.6M seized from Port of Montreal | CTV News

Brian Kingston, leading the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, commended the enforcement efforts to intercept stolen vehicles at the Port of Montreal, highlighting previous inadequacies in container inspections and the prevention of vehicle exportation.

"This is a welcome development, showcasing the success of collaboration between law enforcement and the border services in addressing car theft," he stated.

Kearns of the OPP emphasized the critical role of collaboration among police forces and the private sector in effectively combating vehicle theft.

Bryan Gast from Équité Association, a nonprofit specializing in stolen vehicle identification, praised the operation as a sterling example of the synergy between public and private sectors in fighting auto theft.