Recently, we've heard of a number of car trailer thefts, with several including the theft of the entire rig. The most recent was at a hotel right across from where we were staying, which got us thinking that there were additional security steps we could-and should-be taking. I used to think that the focus of thieves would be the car inside the trailer, but lately it seems some thieves have found it easier to just steal the whole rig.
Statistics from sources such as the Insurance Information Institute, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and National Insurance Crime Bureau show that a vehicle theft occurs in the U.S. every 28 seconds. Of these, 71 percent are passenger cars, 24 percent are light trucks (SUVs and vans) and the remainder are heavy trucks and motorcycles. One study indicated that 35 percent of car thefts took place at or near the residence, 23 percent occurred in a parking lot or garage, and 18 percent were stolen on highways or roads. There was no break-down for car trailers that I could find, but the potential for having your rig stolen is probably higher today, given the current economic situation, than it was previously. But there are several common sense steps you can take, and systems you can install, which can help from making any of us one of the statistics.
Here are a few common sense prevention measures you could take:
• Where you park: Most thefts occur at night. Parking in a well-lit area is a good first step, along with having it visible from your hotel room, if you are staying overnight on the road. Parking in a high-traffic area is also a good idea, as thieves love privacy.
• Locking everything up and out of sight: It's pretty obvious to double-check the locks on the tow rig, trailer hitch, and trailer, but it's also advisable not to leave things which might attract thieves in plain view, such as your GPS
• Alarm systems: Many tow rigs have alarms which sound a siren, and some also have an ignition or fuel shut-off. While a siren might be ignored, the fuel shut-off should prevent the vehicle from going too far. Far fewer trailers have alarm systems, but there are several systems available today. We've outlined below the alarm system we chose, why we selected that unit, and how it was installed.
• Make your rig identifiable: Several sources I found suggest that thieves will often size up their marks based on how easily they can be identified by the police. When thieves are deciding whether it's worth stealing a vehicle, one of their first considerations is its appearance. One theory is that trailers that are easy to identify are less appealing because they're easier to spot on the road, and suggests adding graphics to the trailer for this purpose. A friend of ours told us that a fellow he knew once had his unmarked trailer stolen. After that incident he added graphics on the side of his trailer advertising "Aunt Emma's Knitting Supplies." He's never had a problem since then.
• Another source suggests welding or stamping an identification number (such as the trailer VIN) in a highly-visible location. We did that as we thought stamping the VIN on the trailer tongue was a good idea, since the factory tag could be removed.
• Locks: The use of the right locks for the trailer doors can often be overlooked. Most of us have probably used a keyed lock such as from Master Lock. However, those have an exposed hasp which could be cut with either bolt cutters or a saw, or possibly hammered apart. From what locksmiths tell me, thieves don't usually bother to pick a lock, as it takes too long, but they will cut it apart, which is much quicker. We found a type of lock specifically designed for the trailer rear door from War-Lok (model CTL-10) and available at Trailer-Alarms.com (See Sources Sidebar for contact information). This design has several nice features: Its housing is made of die-cast zinc, and the other components are made of either brass or stainless steel for corrosion protection. It uses a hardened steel pin, which is fully enclosed within the housing, and a recessed push-button lock tumbler. In speaking with Lyle Clark at Trailer-Alarms.com, he said it was the best he has found.