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Surge in violent carjackings in GTA prompts Toronto police, OPP to launch new joint task force

A Toronto Police Services logo is shown at headquarters, in Toronto, on Friday, August 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov A Toronto Police Services logo is shown at headquarters, in Toronto, on Friday, August 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
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A rise in violent carjackings in the Greater Toronto Area has prompted Toronto police and Ontario Provincial Police to launch a new joint task force to address the "new and evolving public safety threat."

In a news release issued Monday, Toronto police said the Provincial Carjacking Joint Task Force (PCJTF), which will be co-led by Toronto police and the OPP, will include police services from around the Greater Toronto Area, including York Regional Police, the Halton Regional Police Service, Peel police, and the Durham Regional Police Service. External agencies, including the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario (CISO), will also be involved.

“The violence associated with auto thefts in Toronto and across the GTA is a concerning trend, and can be incredibly traumatic for victims and their loved ones,” Supt. Steve Watts, of the Toronto Police Service’s Organized Crime Enforcement Unit, said in a written statement.

He added that the Toronto Police Service is “working around the clock” with policing partners to address the situation.

According to police, the purpose of the new task force is to “disrupt” the networks in the region that are carrying out “high-risk auto thefts,” which police say now increasingly involve “violence, firearms, and other weapons.”

“The PCJTF will be notified of violent auto crime occurrences taking place in each jurisdiction, which will then be investigated collaboratively by the respective service and the PCJTF,” the news release read.

The task force is being funded by participating police agencies, the CISO, and through funding provided by the provincial government.

Toronto police said the number of violent auto crimes occurring in Ontario has increased in recent years, with more than 300 carjackings in the GTA so far this year. Police said more than 200 of those incidents occurred in Toronto.

Police said car thieves are often shipping stolen vehicles overseas to be resold or altering vehicle identification numbers (VINs) to resell them domestically.

Ontario Provincial Police Superintendent Paul Mackey, of the Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau, said the joint task force will use a “collaborative and intelligence-led approach” to apprehend perpetrators.

“Carjackings are a serious public safety issue, which have resulted in assault and even homicides. To evade police, thieves may drive dangerously and recklessly, putting the lives of pedestrians, other motorists and police in danger,” Mackey said in a written statement.

“The OPP and partners will investigate and hold anyone who is involved in violent auto theft accountable.”

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