Toronto Van Attack Leads to Security Experts Questioning Car Rental Screenings

Monday’s van attack in Toronto left at least 10 people dead after a driver ran into pedestrians. Scores of people were injured in the incident, which has left security experts questioning how to deal with the recent rise in vehicle attacks. A similar attack occurred in Edmonton last September.

Europe has been dealing with a rise in vehicle attacks, leading countries in Europe to put a higher burden on rental companies.

The United Kingdom is enforcing tougher criminal background checks for car rentals. Rental agencies are limited in their ability to screen customers. Officials claim that the members aren’t profiling experts, and rental agencies can’t tell the difference between a person renting a vehicle to drive their family around or to cause terrorism.

Discrimination laws are also in place, making it difficult for agencies to stay within the law when denying a potential rental. Criminal records are often not enough of a reason to deny a person a rental, too.

Alek Minassian, the man accused in Toronto’s attack, had a brief stint with the Canadian Armed Forces. The Armed Forces is known for their screening diligence, and Miniassian didn’t raise any red flags when he was with the Armed Forces.

He was a normal person searching for a car rental in Toronto. He rented his vehicle from Ryder, and the company has been cooperating with officials. The company does not disclose their security policies, but many rental companies allow customers to book their rentals online.

Officials for the Associated Canadian Car Rental Operators claims that government officials haven’t reached out to the association to discuss potential data sharing between government agencies and rental car companies. The law makes it difficult for the agencies to work with rental companies because the information may infringe on a person’s individual rights as well as existing laws.

The industry does work closely with the National Critical Infrastructure Team, which posts bulletins to agencies as needed.

Limited screening options have made it difficult, or impossible, for rental car agencies to screen for criminal or fraudulent activity.

“Vehicle rental agencies have been concerned with people doing bad things with rental cars since the inception of the industry. Obviously if there was a way to tell a renter was going to do something prohibited with your vehicle, we’d love to have that,” claim officials.

Security experts are looking to larger cities that have security protocols in place to report suspicious activity. New York’s police department has a system in place that allows business to report suspicious encounters.

Italy has a real-time notification system that is used by rental operators. Sweden is working on one of the world’s most advanced system that will utilize geofence technology. The system will be able to limit the driver’s speed to a safe level using the vehicle’s on-board computer. This would allow for less deadly accidents to occur.

Officials claim vehicle attacks are easy to replicate, so the rise in attacks is expected to continue. Officials have relied on heavy trucks at intersections and cement barriers to help protect pedestrians during large-scale events.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.