It can be easy to relax totally when you’re out and about on the road. But no matter how chill the rest of your holiday, when it comes to security, vigilance pays, says MCD columnist Liz Dobson.
Your caravan or motorhome is literally your second home, and as such you need to routinely update security, whether that be checking your insurance policy or researching the latest safety systems. The last thing you want is to come back from a wonderful day out to find your motorhome broken into, or find your caravan towed away while you were at the supermarket. Worse still, is having your vehicle stolen from your home, or even having your caravan stolen while you’re still asleep in it, as happened to one Kiwi caravan owner.
New Zealand is very safe compared to many countries, but thieves exist everywhere. Unfortunately, our Kiwi “she’ll be right” attitude when it comes to locking up is resulting in our caravans and motorhomes being stolen at an alarming rate.
The founder of the Facebook group, Stolen Caravans in New Zealand, Robyn Berghoffer, says that 13 caravans were stolen in November 2021, five in December and nine in January 2022. Once uplifted, the vehicles are re-registered under the thief’s name and sold, usually for drug money, says Robyn.
“Caravans are more popular with thieves, especially older ones, as they are not as secure, and as the story goes, if they want it, they’ll take it,” says Robyn. “The best solution is to have as many security features on your vehicle as possible, to make it tougher to break into. It’s like your home: if it’s easy to get into, thieves will.”
Basic RV anti-theft devices
With caravans, the first thing to buy is a hitch lock to prevent anyone from towing your vehicle when it’s parked up. The downside is that determined thieves will drag the vehicle away as it is, says Robyn. Adding a wheel clamp to both wheels helps, but thieves can take a battery-powered disc grinder to the devices to remove them.
Make sure all window latches have locks on them, so they can’t be opened with something simple like a metal coat hanger. Unfortunately, old caravans won’t have the locks, or thieves will simply smash a window to access the vehicle.
A simple safety hack, says Robyn, is to paint your caravan’s registration on its roof. While thieves will remove the registration and replace it with their own, having the rego on the roof helps it be identified by traffic light cameras and truck drivers who can see the roof when on the road.
Another simple but effective deterrent is a security post. Caravan security posts protect your caravan while it’s parked, physically preventing anyone from removing it. There are a few available, including a great Kiwi-made device called Hitch-Post. Designed by Rod Meharry after his Majestic caravan was stolen, he set about designing a coupling lock to secure his new caravan. It is made from 5mm aluminium with a lock that is hard to remove and is designed to take the weight off the jockey wheel.
Modern tracking devices are becoming more popular and cheaper, allowing you to pinpoint exactly where your caravan is at all times on a map, typically via a phone app or computer program. Some trackers even come equipped with alerts when they detect movement, so you’ll be informed the second something suspicious occurs. This means you can inform the police immediately.
Trackers drastically increase the chances of your caravan or motorhome being recovered after it’s stolen. Also, display a sticker in your caravan window to notify potential thieves that your caravan or motorhome has a tracker installed.
For caravans, the Australian WiTi system is now available in New Zealand. If an attempt is made to steal the caravan, WiTi will detect movement via a highly sensitive gyroscope. The system immediately applies the brakes to prevent the caravan from being towed; it also flashes external lights and sounds a 105db alarm. Unfortunately, this system cannot be used on older caravans as they don’t have electrical systems to power brakes.
RV alarm systems
The caravan industry has come up with some ingenious alarms, from internal motion sensors to tilt detection alarms. It’s quite simple – the more sophisticated the alarm, the greater the chance of deterring a thief. And the more security devices on the vehicle, the tougher it makes it for the thief. Caravans and motorhomes should all be equipped with some form of alarms; a motion-activated alarm with remote control from $46.90 is easily available from stores such as Jaycar. This system is battery operated, with a PIR sensor providing 120-degree coverage, triggering a 120dB+ alarm when breached. Use the remote control to arm or disarm the alarm. Again, the better the systems you have in place, both to alarm and identify your vehicle, the harder it is for thieves to remove it.
Social media to the rescue
Robyn Berghoffer started the Facebook group ‘Stolen Caravans in NZ’ in 2017 when her 1978 caravan was stolen from the driveway of her family home, just days after returning from a trip. Inside was money, clothing, food, and personal mementos.
It wasn’t a theft by chance; the thief had registered Robyn and husband Barry’s caravan as their own, before stealing it from their Bay of Plenty home. They then tried to sell it a month later – even using some of Robyn’s own cushions to style the caravan in the photos – but it was recovered by the police.
“The police said stealing the caravan was a case of home invasion,” says Robyn. She praised the work the police undertook on the case, saying the interior photos of her caravan that she gave them helped them identify her stolen caravan.
When Robyn and Barry replaced their caravan, they also upgraded their home security, including a gate and CCTV. Robyn then decided to set up the Facebook page to help other Kiwis who have their caravans and motorhomes stolen. Her Facebook group has more than 3000 followers who help look out for the stolen vehicles that are posted on the page, with Robyn sharing the vehicle with trucking groups.
ROBYN’S TOP SECURITY TIPS
- Take as many photos as you can of the interior of your vehicle and all the personal items so you can show them to the police to help identify the caravan if it is stolen.
- When planning a holiday, consider joining groups such as All Points Camping Club of NZ, as camping in numbers makes it safer when parked up.
- Members can post upcoming trips and you can be joined by a few other motorhome or caravan owners who can watch over your caravan and belongings too.
- Paint your registration on top of the caravan so it can be identified by police helicopters.
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