Grand theft auto in Leaside

Our community is grappling with an epidemic in auto thefts. My goal in writing this article is to shed light on the current situation, its impact on our neighbourhoods, and the collective steps we can take to mitigate this crisis.

Auto theft has become a disturbing trend across Canada, and with over 100,000 car thefts in 2022 alone, the issue only seems to be worsening. In Ontario, car thefts rose dramatically, from 27,527 in 2021 to 37,041 in 2022, reaching an all-time high (statistics for 2023 are pending). Preliminary figures for 2023 project an even higher number of vehicles stolen. Toronto mirrored this surge, with the number of thefts nearly doubling between 2021 and 2023. In Leaside alone, there were 112 cars stolen in 2023, up from 79 in 2022.

Hotspots for vehicle theft are widespread throughout the city, and there are problem spots in Don Valley West. The past year has seen a rapid rise in vehicle theft in areas like Leaside, Moore Park, and Lawrence Park. Thieves often target cars parked on side streets, with models like the Honda CR-V, Lexus RX Series, and Dodge RAM 1500 series being most at risk.

In response to this epidemic, the federal government has taken notable steps, including reforming the bail system to prevent repeat violent offenders from receiving bail. These new bail rules took effect on January 4, 2024. The federal government has also intensified efforts to intercept stolen cars at the point of export; in November 2023, CBSA officers successfully recovered 72 stolen vehicles through a joint export control operation at the Port of Montreal.

The Ontario government has also introduced measures such as the establishment of an OPP task force and the ‘Preventing Auto Thefts’ grant, which will provide $18M over three years to initiatives aimed at strengthening police response to auto theft. This includes $900,000 in additional funding for Toronto Police Services – a nominal amount that will help, but which will need to be increased to have the desired impact. Insurance companies have likewise taken actions to incentivize the installation of anti-theft devices. However, as our cars continue to vanish from our driveways only to resurface in remote parts of the world, it is clear more work needs to be done.

To further bolster government efforts, my Ontario Liberal caucus colleagues and I support the following proposals: increasing police presence in areas prone to car thefts; implementing stricter penalization to deter potential criminals; and increasing security with better lighting and CCTV cameras in public parking spaces to minimize theft opportunities. Finally, I am looking at what legislative options might be available. One interesting issue is related to the “right to repair.” This legislation could empower car owners to install third-party anti-theft software and devices without the risk of voiding their warranties. Similar legislation has already been adopted in Quebec, and the Ontario Liberal caucus is currently exploring options to bring “right-to-repair” to Ontario. I would welcome public feedback as we continue to develop this approach.

While police, government, and insurance industry efforts are essential, community action plays an important role, too. To enhance your vehicle security, please consider the following measures: as discussed recently by Toronto Police Services at a Lawrence Park ratepayers association meeting, installing anti-theft devices like wheel locks (clubs), ignition kill switches, or tracking systems can be highly effective. If you have access to a garage, park your car there instead of in the driveway. Using RF-blocking containers or pouches for car keys can also safeguard against signal hijacking. Beyond these measures, fostering a sense of community vigilance is vital. Communicating with neighbours, being observant, and looking out for each other’s vehicles can significantly contribute to the safety of our community.

For more information on auto theft prevention and government initiatives, visit To provide comments on this or any other local issues, my office can be reached by email at or by phone at 416-425-6777. Your feedback and involvement are invaluable in shaping our collective response to this crisis.

This article was contributed by Stephanie Bowman, MPP Don Valley West.