A day after Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner was robbed of his Range Rover at gunpoint outside an Etobicoke movie theatre, Toronto police said they have already seen more carjackings so far this year than they did in all of 2021.
“It just seems that this is a crime of opportunity, and the end game is profit,” Insp. Richard Harris of the holdup squad told reporters outside Toronto Police Headquarters Tuesday. “So whether it's a new trend that is believed to be something that's gonna make quick money, I'm gonna say and suggest that they stop. We will not stop.”
Harris said that so far this year Toronto police have responded to 60 carjackings, with the thieves usually targeting high-value vehicles. He said that compares to 59 carjackings in all of 2021.
He said the incident involving Marner also appears to have been a crime of opportunity.
Marner was in his Range Rover in the area of Islington Avenue and the Queensway around 7:45 p.m. on Monday when he was carjacked.
Police said three suspects, two armed with guns and another with a knife, approached a vehicle in the area of Cineplex Cinemas Queensway.
The victims complied with the demands and the suspects then sped off in the vehicle.
No one was physically injured in the encounter.
Police did not officially confirm that Marner was the victim in the incident, saying only that a man and a woman in their 20s were robbed at gunpoint for their Land Rover.
However multiple sources told CP24 Marner was brought to 22 Division hours after the incident to give a statement to investigators.
The Leafs also confirmed the winger was robbed.
"We can confirm Mitch Marner was the unfortunate victim of a carjacking in Etobicoke on Monday evening," a Leafs spokesperson wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "He was unharmed in the incident and the Club & Mitch are thankful for Toronto Police Services’ support. Anyone with information is asked to reach out to Toronto Police Services."
Speaking with reporters, Harris said “every rock will be unturned” as police search for the perpetrators in this and other carjacking incidents.
“We’re actively working to establish any links and dedicated investigators, trust me when I tell you, are working on this feverishly and continue to review any and all evidence that we have so far,” he said.
So far this year, Toronto police have made 20 arrests in carjackings, with many of those suspects believed to have been involved in multiple incidents.
While Marner was not physically injured, Harris said other carjacking victims have been and that all of them deal with the psychological impacts of having been victimized regardless of physical injuries.
“I can tell you they have lasting, devastating effects,” Harris said.
While it is not clear whether the criminals knew who Marner was, the armed robbery of one of Toronto's most famous citizens illustrates an increasing willingness on the part of criminals to use violence in the theft of high-end vehicles.
At about the same time of night two days earlier, two male suspects attempted to carjack a woman in the same area but were not successful.
Police officers chased the suspects on foot in that incident but did not make any arrests.
It is not yet known if the two incidents are connected.
“We're seeing an increase in carjackings where high-end vehicles are sought by the suspects. There's so many different ways that these are taking place,” Harris said, noting that there is often a level of sophistication to the crime and that the goal is usually to sell the vehicles off for profit.
He advised anyone in such a situation to comply with demands rather than resist and to get to a safe place as quickly as possible to report the crime.
“Your safety is worth more than the car,” he said.
MAYOR TORY, MAPLE LEAFS REACT
Toronto Mayor John Tory called the spate of carjackings occurring in the city and the wider region a “plague.”
“It is a plague that is getting worse and not better and I don’t blame the police for that. I think what we have here is highly organized criminal activity that is going on,” he said on Tuesday.
He said everyday residents were coming forward with stories of violent carjackings.
“I had a story told to me by a North Toronto resident just in the last week or so where kids were taken out of a car at gunpoint at night and in this case it is one of our hockey heroes. But this shouldn’t happen to anybody.”
He added that the police were aware of his concern and multiple investigations are underway into the violent incidents.
“I have talked to the police chief about it. They have made some very successful arrests in this area in the last number of days but they are going to have to keep at it and if they need resources to make sure they can get at these organized gangs who are doing this kind of thing (the city will be there).”
Teammate William Nylander said he thought a movie outing was not a situation where anyone would anticipate getting carjacked.
"I don’t really think you can do anything in that situation," he said. "How are you supposed to know that people are going to be waiting for you. Going to the movies like that might be the last place I’d think somebody would come. You have to be alert but I don’t think there’s much you can do if someone comes after you like that."
Marner and his teammates crashed out of the NHL playoffs on Saturday night with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Speaking about the end of the team's season, teammate Mark Giordano said he was glad to see Marner at a team meeting Tuesday after his ordeal.
"It’s a really scary situation, I am glad to see him today and talk to him and see that everything’s okay with him but those are things (that) are never easy to deal with as a person," he told reporters. "It’s a scary situation for sure."
Marner did not speak to reporters after the team meeting on Tuesday.