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Feds providing $121M to crack down on rise in violent crime, auto theft

'I have a message to all the criminals, we’re coming after you and we’re going to catch you and you’re going to jail. It’s as simple as that,' premier says

This article was first published by NewmarketToday, a Village Media publication. 

The federal government is providing $121 million in funding over five years to help Ontario police forces combat rising gun and gang violence.

The funding, announced Wednesday at York Regional Police headquarters in Aurora with Premier Doug Ford, is part of an agreement between federal and provincial governments to crack down on the surge in crime, particularly auto thefts and violent carjackings.

“This landmark deal between Canada and Ontario is going to enhance our efforts to help tackle gun crime and gang violence in our communities,” Ford said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to keep our communities safe.”

Specifics around the funding have yet to be announced, but Ford said it will provide more resources for police to curb auto theft and put more criminals behind bars.

“We have put criminals on notice, and we will continue putting them out of business,” said Ontario Solicitor General Michael Kerzner.

Minister of Public Safety Dominic LeBlanc said the investment will also support police who are dealing with the link between auto theft and organized crime. 

“Here in York Region, auto theft is a growing problem and one that’s increasingly violent,” said LeBlanc.

York Regional Police has seen an almost 50 per cent increase in vehicle thefts since last year, and compared to 2019, a staggering increase of approximately 200 per cent.

York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween said that the significant investments from both the federal and provincial governments will allow police services to address the violent crime trends that many communities are facing.

One specific issue has been the proliferation of illegal guns, of which an alarming number are being smuggled into Canada from the U.S., he added.

“We work every day to keep criminal organizations and their activities out of our neighbourhoods,” said MacSween. “These groups bring unwanted criminal elements into our communities, resulting in the rash of violent carjackings across the GTA and beyond.”

Leah Taylor Roy, MP for Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, said she knows the effects auto theft can have on the community after having two of her vehicles stolen from her driveway last year. She said York Regional Police has done a great job combating the increase in auto theft, but this is much-needed support. 

MacSween said that Interpol recently named  Canada one of the world's biggest source countries for stolen vehicles, which are sold on the black market to help fund international organized crime.

Auto theft has become such an issue throughout Canada that a National Summit on Combatting Auto Theft will be held Feb. 8 in Ottawa to bring together leaders from key jurisdictions and sectors to ensure a co-ordinated response to this issue, said LeBlanc.

While auto theft has been prominent in Ontario, specifically the GTA, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Arif Virani said this is a national issue, from British Columbia to the ports of Halifax. 

Law enforcement has made it clear this is an issue that’s international in scope, he said.

“It requires a national response and that’s why it’s critical we’re getting ahead at the summit,” he said. “It’s about addressing it in a manner that looks at it on a zoom out, it’s all of these different sectors. It’s about insurance issues, looking at the ports, and it’s about looking at the Criminal Code.”

Ford said this federal investment, along with the recent provincial investments that included $51 million over three years to combat auto theft, is part of keeping Canadian communities safe.

He said Ontarians shouldn’t have to fear that their cars could be stolen in the middle of the night or that their doors could be kicked in.

“We’re coming together at all three levels of government and I have a message to all the criminals, we’re coming after you and we’re going to catch you and you’re going to jail. It’s as simple as that,” Ford said. “We’re going to keep you in jail as long as we possibly can. I will not spare one resource to make sure we go after these thugs.”

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