Which Province Has the Most Auto Theft?

Statistics Canada's latest data shows that motor vehicle theft is down for 2016. The decrease follows two years of slight increases but resumes a larger downward trend over the past 20 years.

The data comes from the 2016 Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR), released yesterday by Statistics Canada. The survey, conducted by Stats Canada since 1962, collects information on "all criminal incidents substantiated and reported by Canadian police services." It measures most types of crime by the rate of incidents per 100,000 population.

It's good news if you're worried about your car going missing. Auto theft was down 1 percent overall across Canada between 2015 and 2016, with about 79,000 vehicles stolen last year.

While 79,000 stolen cars and trucks still sounds substantial, the rate of stolen vehicles has seen a significant drop since 2006, when nearly 154,000 motor vehicles were stolen. The rate this past year was 217 incidents of theft per 100,000 population. It was up by 6 percent for 2015, but is now down 55 percent from 487 per 100,000 in 2006. Better than that, the rate is down from a high of 608 per 100,000 population in 1996.

But it's not good news everywhere. While the overall average showed a decline, the decline was led by reductions in PEI (6 percent), Nova Scotia (4 percent), Quebec (10 percent), Manitoba (2 percent), BC (6 percent), and the Northwest Territories (1 percent).

Other parts of the country showed big increases in motor vehicle theft. Saskatchewan, as well as the Yukon and Nunavut, all had double-digit increases in auto theft. They were up 15, 22, and 18 percent, respectively. Newfoundland showed a smaller increase (4 percent), as did Ontario (1 percent) and New Brunswick (1 percent).

The rate in Alberta was unchanged, but auto theft there is still a big issue. The rate in that province was the highest in the country, at 536 per 100,000 population. That translates to 22,801 stolen cars and trucks last year, more than any other province. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the three Territories all have a theft rate much higher than the national average, although that rate translates to 5,663 stolen cars in Saskatchewan, and 4,127 in Manitoba, but just 530 for all three Territories combined.

Motor Vehicle Theft Incidence in Canada
Province and Territory Motor Vehicle Theft

Number Rate % Change in Rate
2015–2016
Alberta 22,801 536 0
British Columbia 14,006 295 –6
Manitoba 4,127 313 –2
New Brunswick 941 124 1
Newfoundland and Labrador 492 93 4
Northwest Territories 234 526 –1
Nova Scotia 912 96 –4
Nunavut 120 321 18
Ontario 17,223 123 2
Prince Edward Island 89 60 –6
Quebec 11,926 143 –10
Saskatchewan 5,663 492 15
Yukon 176 469 22
Canada 78,710 217 –1

If you don't want to worry about your car, the safest place to park it is PEI. There were just 89 motor vehicle thefts on the island last year. That's the lowest number of thefts, and the lowest rate at just 60 per 100,000. Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia both had rates of motor vehicle theft of fewer than 100 per 100,000.

When it comes to cities, the numbers are broken out for the 35 largest metropolitan areas. Sherbrooke, PQ, has the lowest rate of auto theft, at 54 per 100,000. That city is followed by Peterborough, ON, and Saint John, NB, all under 70 per 100,000. The highest rate of motor vehicle theft for a city was Calgary, at 535 per 100,000. That rate was unchanged from last year. Vancouver, Winnipeg, Kelowna, Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Brantford are all also well above the national average.

But a big city doesn't necessarily mean big theft. Toronto and Montreal both ranked well below the national average. Toronto had 113 per 100,000 and Montréal had 168 per 100,000.

The biggest drop in motor vehicle theft rate for a city was Gatineau, PQ. There, auto theft dropped 28 percent to just 71 per 100,000 population. Trois-Rivières had a 25 percent drop in the theft rate. The Guelph, ON, region had the biggest increase. The city jumped 49 percent to 119 per 100,000. Next up was Regina, SK, which was up 17 percent to 523 per 100,000.

How does that compare with our neighbours? The last available data for the US is from 2014. That year the FBI reported a motor vehicle theft rate of 216 per 100,000. That's similar to the rate in Canada, and the US has seen a similar decrease in the last 20 years.

What does it all mean? The trend is good. Motor vehicle theft has dropped massively from a high-water mark in 1996. It's down 55 percent in just the last 10 years. But not all provinces are seeing the benefits. And there is still a car stolen every seven minutes in this country. It costs Canadians about $1 billion every year.

The RCMP recommend that you lock your vehicle, and that you not leave valuables unattended in the vehicle. Those two things can help make sure your car is where you left it when you come back.

Big increases, some drops. 7/28/2017 10:00:00 AM