OTTAWA -- Ottawa police are warning owners of high-end vehicles that their cars, trucks and SUVs remain prime targets for theft.

There were more than 200 reports related to thefts of newer-model Toyota and Lexus vehicles in 2020, police said, and another 35 so far this year. Recent thefts have been reported in the Bridlewood, Crystal Beach and Orléans areas.

In early January, police said five vehicles were stolen in Kanata in a single night.

So far, police have been unable to identify suspects.

To aid in the investigation, police are now asking any owner of Toyota or Lexus SUVs and trucks, particularly Highlander and Tacoma models, who notice damage to the driver's side door handle to report it online.  

"This will assist in identifying the scope of the problem and help direct proactive efforts to the right neighborhoods," police said. 

Police are also encouraging neighbours to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and call 911 if they see any suspicious vehicles. Most of these thefts happen overnight, between midnight and 5 a.m.

Signal amplifiers have been used in thefts of high-end vehicles with keyless entry technology in cities such as Toronto, but Ottawa police say they have not yet seen evidence that amplifiers are being used locally. Police still recommend keeping your key fob inside a signal blocking box or pouch to prevent the signal from being picked up by amplifiers.

Police offer the following tips for protecting your vehicle:

  • Park your vehicle in a locked garage and or block it in tightly with a second vehicle.
  • Install exterior lighting and surveillance to act as a deterrence.
  • Consider installing an after-market electronic immobilizer device, which can interfere with the starting of the vehicle.
  • Keep an eye out for damage to doors or locks, which may indicate your vehicle has been targeted.
  • Consider protecting your vehicle with such devices as car alarms or steering wheel locking devices such as "The Club".
  • Consider a GPS tracking device that can trigger an alarm outside of a programmed invisible fence.
  • Locks to restrict access to the on-board diagnostic plug exist and when applied can impede a thief from reprogramming a key.
  • If you are selling your vehicle, don't let anyone have access to your car keys and don't let your vehicle out of your sight. This prevents a thief from copying your key during a “test drive” so they can return to steal it.