By Janet Groene, F47166
According to crime statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, more than 2 million residential burglaries are committed each year in the United States. In 2000, a burglary occurred once every 15 seconds, with average loss in each occurrence amounting to $1,462. Incredibly, 61 percent of residential burglaries took place during daylight hours, and more occurred during the months of July and August than any other time of the year. Crime statistics from 2000 also indicate that the South accounted for more than 44 percent of all burglaries committed in the United States, while the Northeast had the fewest, at 12.5 percent.
The most common burglary crime is committed through forcible entry in which tools are used, windows are broken, or locks are forced open. But another 30 percent take place through unlawful entry without force, such as through an open door or window.
As a full-timer who carries many, if not all, of your worldly goods on board, you can take several steps to make your RV less likely to be a burglary target.
According to the Burglary Prevention Council (BPC), your first defense should be good locks. “If you can get in without a key, so can a burglar,” said BPC spokesman Jason Bird. Second, examine your security from the inside out, not from the outside in. Always lock doors and keep windows closed when you’re sleeping or away from the motorhome. Third, always create the illusion that you are home by using timers to control lights, radio, and television. Burglars won’t enter if they think someone is inside, the Council contends.
Here are more tips from the BPC that apply to RV living:
Don’t park your motorhome in a location where shrubbery or other parked vehicles provide hiding places for thieves at your coach’s entry points.
- A large dog that barks at strangers can be a good deterrent.
- Park in an area with ample outdoor lighting. Better yet, mount motion-detection lights that illuminate your coach as soon as an intruder sets foot within a certain perimeter. In fact, experts recommend the use of motion-detection lights outside, instead of lights that burn all night. Why waste the electricity?
- Park in a corner site. Thieves tend to bypass corners, because they are more visible. If you park in a cul-de-sac or loop, make sure the loop is included in regular patrols provided by park rangers or the campground management. Security patrols may cover only the main roads.
- Get security locks or rods for sliding windows.
To make your possessions less attractive to thieves:
Engrave your driver’s license number or some other code onto your valuables. It’s harder to fence marked merchandise. Many police departments offer free use of an engraving pen.
If you buy an expensive item such as a new computer, don’t leave the empty box with the rest of the trash. As inconspicuously as possible, take it to the dumpster. Don’t flaunt your belongings.
Take inventory of your motorhome’s contents. In a panic after a break-in, you’ll still need to be able to tell police exactly what was taken. Make two copies of your list of possessions, one to keep in the coach and another to leave with friends or family. Videotaping is an easy way to document your possessions and make a very clear inventory.
Use stickers that indicate your coach is protected by an alarm. New FMCA members are issued antitheft decals, which they are instructed to attach to their motorhomes; additional decals are available from the FMCA national office. These decals serve as a deterrent to anyone who is considering stealing or vandalizing the motorhome of an FMCA member, by stating that a reward will be awarded to “any individual who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of a thief burglarizing a member’s motorhome.” FMCA’s antitheft decal program is cosponsored by FMCA and RV Alliance America, C95.
Use decoys, such as a jewelry box on the dresser or an empty safe that will easily be spotted. Keep the good stuff in a safe that is harder to find and impossible to remove. Thieves are usually in a big hurry. Make them think they’ve hit the jackpot, and they’ll leave sooner.
Never leave your keys in a place where thieves can get them. Even if they don’t steal the entire coach, they could get into the interior or the basement storage areas.
Get to know your neighbors, but don’t be too predictable about your comings, goings, valuables, and vulnerabilities. Even the most honest, trusted neighbors might say the wrong things to the wrong people.
Make sure everyone in your coach understands the need for discretion, security, and keeping doors locked, even if you’ll be away for just a few minutes at the laundry.
If workmen must come into your coach, don’t leave them there alone.
If you return to your coach and find a door or window ajar, don’t go inside to investigate. Go elsewhere to call the police. The sooner you call, the greater the chance that your stolen possessions will be recovered. While you wait for the police, don’t touch anything or attempt to clean up.
While the BPC recommends leaving at least some curtains open to give the appearance that someone is home, you may consider keeping window coverings closed when not in the coach so smash-and-grab thieves won’t be tempted by valuables that are within easy reach.
Discuss with your insurance agent whether you need a special rider to cover extra valuables you have onboard your motorhome. RV part-timers don’t usually carry the types of things a full-timer might have, such as valuable jewelry, the family silver, or a stamp collection. Under an ordinary policy, you may have trouble collecting on such valuables.
You probably know your coach’s license number by heart after filling out campground registrations, but it’s a good idea to have the number in your wallet and on file with one or two close friends or relatives. Check your license plate frequently. Thieves steal the license plates of law-abiding citizens for use on vehicles that are stolen or are involved in crimes.
If you stay for long periods in the same campsite, discuss a neighborhood watch-type program with your neighbors and with the campground management. Many police departments provide a free speaker who will talk to groups that want to create such a program.
Consider investing in power line carriers — devices that enable you to pre-set lights and other electrically powered items. The devices also can be controlled remotely, allowing you to turn lights on as you approach the coach.
For additional reading about crime prevention, try one of these books, which can be found at bookstores or through Internet booksellers: Home Mechanix Guide To Security: Protecting Your Home, Car, & Family by Bill Phillips ($16.95, John Wiley & Sons); Safe Homes, Safe Neighborhoods: Stopping Crime Where You Live by Stephanie Mann and M.C. Blakeman ($14.95, Nolo Press); or Secure From Crime: How To Be Your Own Bodyguard by Craig Huber and Don Paul ($14.95, Path Finder Publications).
Reading for the road
Bernice Beard, F93208, has authored a new book titled 301 Ways To Make RV Travel Safer, Easier, And More Fun ($16.95, Arbor House). It is packed with tips arranged for pleasant riffling or serious reading. Keep the book handy, because it’s a great idea starter, problem solver, and travelogue. Reading it is like chatting with an old FMCA friend. To order, call (800) 966-4146.
Smart Packing For Today’s Traveler by Susan Foster ($19.95, Smart Travel Press) is aimed at the suitcase traveler, but its tips for the space-pinched motor coach traveler are worth the price of the book. Learn about the most practical fabrics, including the new, high-tech textiles; how to mix and match outfits; and how to cram a ton of wardrobe into a half-ton closet. When you’ve gleaned what you can, pass the book along to someone who can make better use of the chapters devoted to airline travel.
Traveling with a theme gives exciting new interest and purpose to the full-timer’s itinerary, and here’s one I hadn’t thought of: following wild mustangs, state by state. Believe it or not, these horses are found in almost every state, and the Bureau of Land Management is still uncovering new herds in the wild. A new book by Lisa Dines, The American Mustang Guidebook ($19.95, Willow Creek Press), is a combination travel guide, horse guide, natural history guide, and American history book, all in one volume. If you’ve ever thought of adopting your own wild pony, this book tells you how.
A new series of books from Menasha Ridge Press could be a lifesaver for those who live in the great outdoors. Dangerous Wildlife In The Southeast by F. Lynne Bachleda is the first of this series, which soon will have books with the same title for the Mid-Atlantic, New England, California and Nevada, the Midwest and Great Lakes, and the Great Plains. The books are superbly illustrated for clear wildlife identification and are printed on glossy stock that should hold up for years, justifying the $22.95 cover price. Hundreds of species, from alligators to yellow jackets, are described from their physical appearance to their habitat. The book includes advice for avoiding dangerous wildlife and for dealing with encounters should they occur. Also included are warnings about the most common poisonous plants.
The most exciting and helpful book I’ve seen in years is Mexico by RV ($19.95, Sunseeker Publications) by Kathy Olivas, F168794. If you’ve been reluctant to tackle Mexico on your own, Kathy gives you all the tools you need, including maps of major cities, itineraries, shopping and camping tips, and a step-by-step guide to the official paperwork involved. Kathy’s instructions may keep you from making an expensive mistake. The book is based on the Olivas’ seven years of travel south of the border. You’ve probably heard horror stories about RVing in Mexico, but the experiences related here are reassuring and motivating. The book is $19.95. It can be ordered from any bookstore, by calling (702) 498-2612, or by visiting www.sunseekerpub.com for a faxable order form.