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Police operation at Montreal port leads to recovery of nearly 600 stolen vehicles | CBC News

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A police operation at the Port of Montreal led to the recovery of 598 stolen vehicles since December, many of them stolen from southern Ontario and slated for sale overseas.

The operation, dubbed Project Vector, involved more than a dozen police forces from across Ontario and Quebec. 

“Project Vector disrupted criminal networks that profit from the Canadian export market to sell stolen vehicles,” Marty Kearns, the deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said at a press conference in Montreal. 

Police hailed the project as an important step in their fight against organized criminal networks which they say are behind a recent surge in car thefts in Eastern Canada. 

As part of the project, police conducted hundreds of inspections on shipping containers in the Port of Montreal. They recovered stolen vehicles, most of them taken from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). 

Kearns said the vehicles, valued at $34.5 million, were to be sold on foreign markets around the world, in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and in South America.

Mark Hemmerick, an OPP inspector involved in the project, said many of the seized vehicles were connected to violent crimes.

“One of these vehicles that was recovered was connected to a carjacking using a firearm and another one was stolen and used for a home invasion in a residence a few hours later,” he said, adding stories like those are “concerning for everyone.”

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Car thefts have surged in recent years. In Ontario and Quebec, they increased by 48 per cent and 58 per cent respectively between 2021 and 2023. 

But police have said they are cracking down on organized crime, which they say is behind the rise in stolen vehicles. 

Since October 2023, a series of major raids led to the arrests of at least 121 suspects with 730 charges laid. 

But Wednesday’s announcement was the largest recent example of police action on stolen vehicles. Hemmerick said the information gathered as a result of the seizures has led to “many charges being laid and many arrests.” 

However, though police hailed the recovery of nearly 600 vehicles as significant, in 2023, car thefts in Ontario and Quebec topped 45,000.

The increase in car thefts has led to the federal government boosting funding for police forces across the country. 

In January, police forces in Ontario received $121 million from the federal government, in hopes of targeting the rise of stolen vehicles and carjackings in the GTA. 

In 2023, there were 12,000 cars stolen in Toronto — a 24.4 per cent increase from the previous year. 

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