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Electronic auto theft on the rise


Electronic auto theft on the rise

The sophisticated technology that makes it convenient for drivers to unlock their cars from the house is increasingly being redeployed to enable high-end auto theft.  In 2021, the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) has seen a significant increase in both relay and re-programming thefts of high-end vehicles with keyless entry and push-start technology. Since January 2021, there have been a total of 52 vehicles stolen from Milton and Halton Hills that have been attributed to the use of relay or reprogramming technology. In the majority of these thefts, the vehicles are being stolen from residents’ driveways during the overnight hours, with most thefts typically taking less than one minute.

What is a relay theft?

Thieves will use technology called a “relay device” to find a key fob signal from inside a residence. The thieves do not need to enter the residence in order to find the signal. The signal is then amplified which allows the thieves to unlock, start and steal the vehicle. The vehicle owner discovers their vehicle has been stolen, even though they are in possession of their key fob.

What is a reprogramming theft?

Thieves will first gain entry to the vehicle by mechanical means (breaking in by using a tool). They will then access the vehicle’s diagnostic port and reprogram a blank key fob which allows them to start and steal the vehicle.

The HRPS is applying significant resources to investigate these occurrences. In spite of recent arrests, it is important that the community is aware of this trend and takes preventative steps to ensure their property remains secure from theft. Special attention should be given by those members of the community who own the specific vehicles described here as they are most commonly being targeted for theft.

What types of vehicles are being targeted?

While many different makes and models of high-end vehicles are being targeted, over 55% of these thefts involve Lexus RX350, Toyota SUV and Honda CR-V models. These makes and models are consistent with the Top 10 reported stolen vehicles in Canada as reported by the Insurance Bureau of Canada as seen here.

What can residents do to protect themselves from these types of thefts?

There are measures that residents can take to mitigate the risk of having their vehicle(s) stolen:

Park your vehicle in a locked and secured garage

Install an on-board diagnostic blocker

Install a steering wheel lock device

Combine the above measures with an aftermarket GPS tracking device

Place vehicle key fob inside a radio frequency shielding bag when not in use

Lock your vehicle at all times

Equip your vehicle with an alarm

Install home security cameras that capture the exterior of your residence, including the driveway

Take steps to conceal the Vehicle Identification Number (V.I.N.)

Additional tips and information, including an educational video, can be found on the Halton Police website:

Call 911 if you witness a crime in progress.  Call 905-825-4777 if you see suspicious vehicles or persons in your neighbourhood.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers. Contact Crime Stoppers” at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or through the web at

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