Few things can drain the joy from an RV adventure as quickly as theft. Whether your identity or your possessions have been taken away, the loss makes you feel violated and vulnerable and, depending on the circumstances, can place you in a precarious situation. While nobody is totally immune to thievery, there are some steps you can take to lessen the likelihood that you’ll be impacted.
1. Keep your guard up: In the Rudyard Kipling novel, the young spy-in-training Kim is challenged over and over with games meant to see how well he’s paid attention to the world around him. Situational awareness – or simply being aware of your surroundings and potential threats at all times – is a lost art, especially among many travelers. Being preoccupied with smart devices, maps or attractions can make you an easy target. The next time you park your RV, quiz your travel companions. Do they know how many states are represented in the RVs parked nearby? Can they identify the location of nearest security station? Being mindful of details can not only help you make your site less appealing to thieves but can also be useful in filing a police report if something does get stolen.
2. Dress down. While you may not want to look like a slouch, you also don’t want to look like somebody with good stuff to steal. Imitate the dress of the places you’re in as closely as possible. Avoid tell-tale “tourist” attire or gear. Be sure some bland, “gray” attire is hanging in your motorhome’s closet.
3. Take full advantage of pocket space. Some folks feel encumbered by full pockets, but one of the most secure places for small valuables is on your person, and items in your pockets are less steal-able than those in a purse or backpack. Phones, cash, credit cards, jewelry and even tablets are pocketable whenever you’re out of sight of your RV.
4. Stash cash in multiple locations. Speaking of cash in your pockets, it shouldn’t all be in the same pocket. Divvy up your money, with a few bills in a wallet, a few in a pill fob on your key chain, some in a shoe, some in a money belt or so forth. Identify a couple of secure locations in your motorhome where you might keep a bit of cash tucked away for emergencies, too.
5. Develop a “neighborhood watch” program. Some of the underestimated pleasures of RVing for many are the friendships made along the way. Just like a brick and mortar neighborhood, an RV park can have a scaled-down “neighborhood watch program.” Ask neighbors with whom you’ve established a level of trust to watch your place while you’re away, and offer to return the favor. It’s good to work out a signal to let them know you’ve returned safely and settled in for the evening, such as a potted plant set in a specific spot or a certain light switched on.
6. Don’t advertise your valuables. Shirts or hats that praise your favorite gear can tip off would-be thieves to the grade of possessions you own. Likewise, be mindful of bumper stickers that broadcast your taste in electronics, outdoor equipment or other items.
7. Know the locale. Travelers spend a lot of time perusing guidebooks and websites to identify the best attractions, but just as important is knowing which spots to avoid. Speak with the local sheriff’s department, the resort host or others to pinpoint shady neighborhoods with higher crime rates.
8. Invest in, and use, good security. Make the most of the locks, safes and/or alarm systems with which your RV came equipped, and upgrade over time as money allows. One of the neat things about online retailers is the feedback from other shoppers. Whether buying door locks, alarm systems, safes or monitoring devices, do your homework. Read the sometimes hundreds of reviews to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth on RV security systems and lock boxes.
9. Be wary of social media. Imagine this: a stranger learns your name through common pleasantries or via a business exchange. If that stranger turns out to be a criminal, he or she could find you on a social media site, learn that you’re staying in ABC Campground and that you’re going to dinner at XYZ Restaurant at 6:00pm. Only post photos or itineraries after the trip is over.
10. Protect information on smartphones and tablets. Pictures, financial data and contact information are all things carried on smart devices that we don’t want to fall into the hands of a stranger. Take a look at apps that will allow you to track and clear your device if it turns up missing. Avoid accessing bank accounts or shopping online while you travel. Use unusually colored protective cases or stickers to ensure that your devices stand out in a crowd.