Vehicle theft | After the explosion, the lull

The increased fight against the scourge of car theft seems to be bearing fruit. After an explosion in 2023, the number of vehicles stolen in Montreal has decreased by 30% since the start of the year. The police see this as a sign that their operations are working, but warn that it is still far too early to declare victory.

What there is to know

The number of stolen vehicles decreased by 30% between the first quarter of 2023 and that of 2024.

The City of Montreal Police Department finds this observation encouraging, but is not too quick to rejoice.

The period when thefts are most numerous is generally the summer season.

“It is naturally too early to speak of a lasting trend, but I believe that we can still see the combined result of police operations, the prevention efforts of the population and all the partners concerned,” the commander of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Montreal City Police Service (SPVM), Yannick Desmarais, testified Thursday before a federal committee in Ottawa which is looking into the scourge.

Alongside his testimony, the police officer reported that 1,870 vehicles had been stolen between 1er January and March 30, 2024. This is 30% less than the toll of 2,673 flights recorded during the same period in 2023.

As the drop only covers the period from January to March, it is important to emphasize that vehicle theft is lower during this winter period. It is in fact more in spring and summer, from April to September, that this type of crime is more widespread.

However, this decline marks a significant reversal of the upward trend observed since the start of the pandemic. In 2023, nearly 12,000 vehicles were stolen in the Quebec metropolis, an increase of 22% compared to 2022. In total in 2023, more than 535 arrests for vehicle theft were made in Montreal and 6,835 stolen vehicles were been found.


Vehicle theft in Montreal

Since a National Summit on Vehicle Theft was held in February, police actions against car theft have indeed intensified. A network of thieves was notably dismantled last February and several separate operations also took place at the port of Montreal. The creation of a police force dedicated to the fight against the export of stolen vehicles to the port of Montreal was even mentioned.

Mr. Desmarais affirms that “this good news must never make us forget the ability of groups to adapt [criminels] “. “Vigilance, as well as a proactive and agile approach, remains essential if we wish to maintain downward pressure,” persisted Mr. Desmarais.

A heavier sentence

For these efforts to bear fruit, the police are calling for harsher sentences. In committee on Thursday, Mr. Desmarais indicated that his teams “will always be open to larger sentences”. In February, the president of the Brotherhood of Police Officers of Montreal, Yves Francoeur, said he feared that the penalties for vehicle thefts would remain “tiny given the fact that these were not usually violent crimes, perpetrated against the person “.

“It is dangerous for the police, but also for the population in general, because people who flee can cause harm to citizens who are simply moving around,” argued Yves Francoeur.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also mentioned the need for tougher penalties last February, during the recent summit, also insisting on a ban on the sale of car hacking devices.

In recent years, reality has changed, as police services themselves admit: car theft is increasingly dangerous for the public. “The people who commit the thefts are ready to put lives in danger in order not to be caught,” Sûreté du Québec inspector Michel Patenaude reiterated Thursday in Ottawa, as previously reported The Press.


The place where an SPVM patrol officer opened fire Wednesday on suspected car thieves, in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

Wednesday afternoon, an SPVM patrol officer opened fire on suspected car thieves who were speeding towards him, near Vendôme station, in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce district.

More exchanges, more results

Yannick Desmarais, for his part, does not hide that the police officers working at the port of Montreal will need “additional powers” ​​in order to fight against thefts, in particular by being able to open containers more easily. With the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), “certain documents that must be completed can slow down investigations in which we must proceed quickly,” emphasized the investigator.


The port of Montreal is often singled out when it comes to exporting stolen vehicles to Canada.

At the Port of Montreal, the director of security, Felixpier Bergeron, for his part argued Thursday that “improvements” could be made in terms of access to information or disclosure of information.

We want to be a participant, we want to help them as much as we can […]but currently, the police cannot speak to us or ask us for specific information, since we do not have “police” status.

Felixpier Bergeron, director of security at the Port of Montreal

According to him, regulatory relaxation “would probably greatly help” the police in their investigations, in order to obtain the information they need. “Currently, we are not in a position to help them,” stressed the manager.

At her side, the Bloc member for Avignon–La Mitis–Matane–Matapédia and member of the Standing Committee on Public and National Security, Kristina Michaud, suggested that the federal Minister of Transport, Pablo Rodriguez, be invited to testify in the next weeks. The Minister of Public Safety, Dominic LeBlanc, is scheduled to appear before this committee on May 2.

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