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As car thieves break into homes, some Toronto neighbourhoods turn to private patrols


In Toronto neighbourhoods where car thieves break into homes to get keys – terrifying residents at home at the time – some are taking security into their own hands, with entire neighbourhoods looking to hire dedicated private security.

In one case, 57 households banded together to hire a dedicated patrol car and security guards to patrol nightly from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. – a tactic common in gated communities but novel in neighbourhoods with public streets.

“We went from nightly occurrences to zero occurrences for the last two months,” said Ranko Vukovic of Blackbird Security, whose company provides the service in one neighbourhood, which asked not to be named.

“[The thieves] are professionals. So they always do their research before they decide whether or not they’re going to go… and they see us and just move on,” he said.

Toronto figures show the number of auto thefts continuously climbing, reaching 11,767 so far this year – more than 33 a day – and more than double the 5,197 cars that were stolen in 2019.

Thieves can use a variety of tactics, from catching and duplicating the signal on a key fob to hacking into a car’s onboard port.

But in several terrifying videos obtained by CTV News, thieves can be seen breaking into homes to search for the keys their drivers have with them.

In one case this fall, two thieves clad in hoodies and masks kick down a door together in a home in Rosedale. They come face-to-face with the man who lives there, who screams at them to get out.

“I was lying in bed and heard a crash, and it jolted me, waking me up,” said the man, Richard, who asked not to use his last name. “I walked down the stairs, and two guys were in the house, running around the main floor, clearly looking for my keys.

“It was scary, man. Super scary,” he said.

The thieves couldn’t find the keys and took off, Richard said. He said he is among a group in Rosedale that is also considering private security.

“I like to sleep at night. And I want my family to be safe. And I want our neighbourhood to be safe. It’s certainly something I would be prepared to support,” he said.

In another case in Rosedale, one woman said she and her daughter hid in a closet while five men in hoodies looked for and found the keys to her SUV.

“I was pretty scared to come out. They got my keys. They tried to take my car. They couldn’t because it had a club on it,” the woman said, who asked not to be identified.

But she had her doubts that people should go to private security.

“To be honest, I don’t think there should be a need for private security. I think the police should be enough and I think they should take care of this,” she said.

Coun. Dianne Saxe, who represents the ward of University-Rosedale, said she understands that people who feel desperate would turn to private services.

“There is an enormous increase in auto theft in the last year. It’s higher than it’s been seen in decades. And my constituents are justifiably very frightened and distressed,” she said.

But Saxe said the city services need to do what they are meant to do, called for better coordination among police forces, and to fix structural financial problems facing the city since it was amalgamated.

“I think it’s extremely harmful to the city for public services and public spaces to be degraded so that people who can withdraw into private services do – that can be a doom loop,” she said.

Ontario police have put together a task force to tackle auto theft and have had some successes, including Project Stallion, which recovered over 1000 vehicles in October.

Residents say the Blackbird Security project is slated to last a year and cost each household $180 a month. Top Stories

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