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31 arrested in joint OPP-Quebec police operation targeting auto theft in Ontario

OPP Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns speaking at a news conference on Friday, March 22, 2024. Kearns says that between 2021 and 2023, there has been a 206% increase in violent carjackings and home invasions, predominantly in the Greater Toronto Area. (CBC - image credit)
OPP Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns speaking at a news conference on Friday, March 22, 2024. Kearns says that between 2021 and 2023, there has been a 206% increase in violent carjackings and home invasions, predominantly in the Greater Toronto Area. (CBC - image credit)

Thirty-one people were arrested this week in a joint operation targeting auto thefts in Ontario, provincial police announced Friday.

'Project Volcano' was carried out by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Sûreté du Québec and Montréal police.

In all of the cases, suspects were apprehended by the OPP after charges were laid, said the force's Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns at a news conference Friday.

"The accused failed to appear for court purposes or violated their release conditions, resulting in warrants being issued for their arrests," Kearns said.

"Project Volcano was an initiative to bring these such individuals before the courts to ensure they answer to the charges laid against them."

Accused as young as 16 driving stolen vehicles: police

According to the deputy commissioner, in many cases the accused were wanted not only for auto theft but also for "many serious offences" such as possession of a loaded firearm, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and impaired driving.

"We've encountered accused as young as 16 years old driving stolen vehicles recklessly in attempts to evade police," Kearns said.

"Several serious motor vehicle collisions have resulted from these incidents, putting the lives of our police officers and the lives of members of the public at significant risk."

Kearns said that between 2021 and 2023, there has been a 206 per cent increase in violent carjackings and home invasions resulting in serious injury or deaths, predominantly in the Greater Toronto Area.

Nearly 3,000 vehicles have been stolen in Ontario in the past seven weeks alone, he said.

Since October 2023, 121 suspects have been arrested, 730 charges laid and 157 vehicles have been recovered.

"Auto theft is impacting Ontarians at an unprecedented rate," Kearns said.

"What is also concerning is the speed with which criminals are able to steal vehicles, often using methods to defeat existing anti-theft technology."