Over 20 people have been arrested.
Officers from several police forces across the GTA have recovered over 200 stolen vehicles and arrested 24 people in a massive operation called Project High 5.
Peel Regional Police, alongside Halton Regional Police, York Regional Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, and several other law-enforcement agencies, recovered 217 stolen vehicles during a six-month investigation, according to a January 27 press release. Altogether, the value of the stolen vehicles came out to $11.1 million.
Project High 5 was started in response to a "documented increase" in vehicles being stolen from residents in Peel Region and the GTA.
"It is alleged that suspects forced open the driver's door and obtained access to the vehicle's On Board Diagnostic Port (OBD). Once this was achieved, they utilized key programming devices to program a new aftermarket key fob. These were not the result of relay thefts and were captured by victims and neighbouring residences on home security," police said.
According to officers, vehicles were typically stolen from residential neighbourhoods while the owners were asleep. Stolen vehicles were then loaded into shipping containers and sent to the U.S. or overseas to West African and Middle Eastern countries.
Investigators said they identified vehicles that were fraudulently registered in the province, and sold to unassuming car dealerships, online dealer platforms, and buyers.
"Police identified vehicles that had been exported previously and registered with cloned Vehicle Identification Numbers and further vehicles were recovered throughout the province and North America," police said.
Police said the vehicles targeted were identified as being the most commonly stolen vehicles by the Equite Association: Toyota Highlanders, Honda CRVs, Ford F150s, Range Rovers, and Lexus SUVs.
On January 19, investigators carried out nine residential search warrants across Peel, Halton, and York Region. They arrested 24 people in connection to the auto theft ring and laid 321 charges altogether. Drugs, a loaded firearm, over $100,000 of Canadian bills, and forged documents were also seized.
"The reality is, this isn't the end of the investigation but the beginning of a partnership between us and our community to do everything that we can to prevent vehicle theft from continuing to impact our community safety," Deputy Chief of Investigations and Emergency Services for Peel Regional Police Nick Milinovich said in a video about Project High 5.
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