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Police crack down on auto theft with formation of a new unit in Simcoe County

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Barrie Police and South Simcoe Police are joining forces to take on the epidemic of auto thefts.

In what both police services refer to as "borderless policing," a new auto theft unit will be formally created, equipped with new technology and tools to stop auto theft in its tracks.

"This is not a Barrie problem, It's not a South Simcoe problem," said Barrie Police Chief, Rich Johnston. "It's our problem together, it's public safety and it's our job to respond effectively."

Thousands of vehicles have been stolen across Ontario already this year, according to police.

During the creation of its task force with the Toronto Police Service in March of this year, the OPP said that between 2021 and 2023, violent carjackings and home invasions resulting in injury or death have increased by 206 per cent.

With alarming statistics like that, Barrie Police and South Simcoe Police believe now is the time to increase cooperation among their members.

"We're putting our great investigators together and they're going to flow seamlessly between both communities," Chief Rich Johnston said. "It's as I think both communities would expect from their police services."

In total, $1.8 million will be utilized over three years for the partnership between the services.

It comes from grant funding announced by the province last November, giving $18 million to 21 different projects across Ontario to target auto theft.

A Barrie Police logo on the side of a cruiser taken on May 1, 2024 (Christian D'Avino/CTV News).

The police services will be able to hire a part-time crime analyst to support its new unit, using data and analytics when investigating thefts.

"It will also give them some of the tools and equipment that I can't go into detail about," said South Simcoe Police Chief John Van Dyke." But especially for a small service like South Simcoe, that may have been out of our range to purchase."

With those tools comes the need for highly skilled individuals. Seven senior officers will make up the unit, according to the police services.

"These are not junior people," Chief Van Dyke added. "These are people that have worked in our police, speaking from South Simcoe, worked in our street crime unit investigating property crime for some time."

Public awareness and education will also be a key component of the grant funding, according to police.

10,000 Faraday bags that are designed to prevent key fob signals from being obtained will be distributed during community events in the coming weeks and months. Barrie Police said more of these bags would be made available in the future. 

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