New federal legislation targets car thieves

Vancouver: Car thieves and fencers of stolen property could face stiffer penalties under new legislation introduced by the federal government Tuesday targeting property crime.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said trafficking in stolen property has been identified as a primary activity for organized criminals in Canada.

And he said auto affects more individual Canadians and businesses than any other crime.

“Our government is taking action to protect Canadians, their property and their communities,” Nicholson said. “Auto theft is estimated to cost Canadians more than $1 billion each year, and the dangerous driving that sometimes results makes Canadian roads unsafe. Auto theft is also one of the criminal enterprises on which organized crime depends.”

The proposed legislation creates a separate criminal code offence for “theft of a motor vehicle”, which would carry a mandatory prison sentence of 6 months after a second conviction.

It also includes a new offence for altering, destroying or removing a vehicle identification number or VIN – a common practice among Lower Mainland crime rings that have been targeted by the Insurance Corporation of B.C. in civil suits.

The new law would make it an offence to traffic in property obtained by crime and to possess such property for the purpose of trafficking.

Right now, it is a criminal code offence to possess stolen property, but there is no trafficking provision.

The proposed legislation would also give the Canada Border Services Agency power to identify and prevent stolen property from leaving the country, therefore reducing the exportation of stolen vehicles from Canada by organized crime.

Photograph by: Grand Theft Auto screengrab, Canwest News Service