Are fulltime RVers safe when camping in unfamiliar locations?


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

If you are a fulltimer, you are carrying most of your worldly possessions with you. Burglars may be able to spot a fulltimer by the amount of stuff they see by either looking in windows or around the campsite.  If you are considering fulltiming, you’ve possibly read about crimes and wonder — how subject to the criminal element are fulltiming folks in RVs? If you sit around the campfire, sooner or later there’s some sort of RV “crime story” bound to come up — but if you push your source for specifics, often things seem to get vague. Yes, we have heard of actual incidents where travelers have run into trouble — but in reality, it’s a very RARE situation.

RVs are pretty hard to break into, compared to the common home. After all, in the dark of night, a big old house presents a lot of places to sneak in. Your little old RV is so small if somebody breaks a window, it’s sure to wake you up. Burglars don’t want to let you know they’re coming.

Too, robberies most often involve planning: the neighborhood mini-mart, the bank, the liquor store, somebody’s home known to have valuables or lots of dough. By our transient nature, as RVers, we’re a whole lot harder to work into a well-planned robbery effort. Also, for some reason, there’s a prevailing view of RVers that we all carry sawed-off shotguns around, begging for the chance to “make my day.”

We’ll leave the thought of toting a weapon up to you, but there are a few tips that can make your RV experience more secure. First, use common sense. Don’t open your door to anyone (particularly at night) who you don’t know. Don’t park your rig in neighborhoods infested with “tagging” graffiti. Keep your doors locked. Leave the hitchhiker for somebody else to pick up. If you do stay overnight in a “rest area,” use your own bathroom at night, rather than presenting yourself as an easy mark as you wander up to the public one.

On the whole, a lot of us like to be friendly. Sometimes that can put us in harm’s way. Suppose it’s the middle of the night and someone raps on the door. They call out your name and ask you to open. Must be somebody you know, right? Some RVers leave themselves open to that danger by putting out a sign-up front that says something like, “Our Home on Wheels – Joe and Mary Schmuck.” Something to think about.

One thing full-timers don’t have that permanently affixed home dwellers do have: Easy access to a safe deposit box. Just what do you do about important papers? Some rely on a trusted friend or relative and provide them a key to a bank deposit box. If papers are needed, the friend can fetch them and, with the modern convenience of overnight delivery services, can get them into your hands in a hurry. Of course, you’ll need to apply organization to how you put your stuff in the box, perhaps sealing them in individually numbered envelopes, keeping an “index” of those envelopes. That way, you can ask for “number five” without having to disclose just what information is being retrieved.

Others would rather keep that information with them. A small fireproof strongbox may be stashed away in the RV closet. Consider bolting the thing to the floor. In case anyone does break into your rig, you can at least slow down the removal of your documents. Strongbox in the RV, or bank box elsewhere, consider keeping a computer flash drive or two with scans of the documents on them so you can review just what a document says without having to break it out.

Crime on the road? Yes, it’s everywhere. But your chances of encountering it are probably nowhere near as likely as your imagination might indicate. We all have a “sixth sense” about danger. We’ve had experiences on the road where we just felt that “Something isn’t right here…” and we heeded it: We picked up and moved on. After years of roving about in our RV, we can honestly say that “alarm signal” sounded less than a handful to times, and we’ve never had any real trouble out there.