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Campground Theft
It is unfortunate that theft should be a concern when you are camping. This problem is on the rise. The following information may help you prevent property loss due to theft.

There are several types of theft to be concerned about. Most people worry about leaving their possessions in their tent while they are gone for the day. Some robberies do take place this way - but not many. Most robberies I have experienced while working in the park system take place at night or at the trail heads while the visitors (your family!) are out hiking.

There are a few easy ways to reduce your chances of being robbed or lessen the impact a robbery could have on you.

Ask the camp staff if the park has had problems with robberies. All of the parks I have worked at warned people about problems when we had them.

Preventing Day Time Camp Robberies

I have been asked about techniques to lock your tent. Don't bother! There is no real point to locking your zippers. Anyone who would steal from your site could slice through your tent with a razor blade. If you went to the effort to lock up your tent - it would draw attention to the fact that you have valuables inside. You might not get robbed - but could still end up with a big hole in your tent when somebody went shopping.

You can leave most of your stuff in your tent, but leave nothing on this list Sleeping bags, sleeping pads, lanterns. etc., should be just fine! Never leave food in your tent or campsite - even in your cooler! We had a raccoon who once rolled a 15 lb. rock off of a cooler to get to the contents! Food in your tent will invite friends - and they may tear up your tent to get to it.

Preventing Night Time Robberies

When you park in your site for the night, lock your doors! Most people don't - and it's easy pickings. Don't assume you'll hear a thief - people rarely do! One couple had their dog in the car. The car got robbed and the dog never barked once! If your dog is not named 'Killer' or 'Spike' don't expect it to guard your belongings. These people were just grateful that they still had a dog!

Try to put all of your valuables in your trunk. An empty car is uninviting to a thief (unless it's a car thief :-)
If you pack your car to the roof like I do it is impossible to hide everything. Make sure that none of the items listed here are in your car - put them in the trunk or keep them with you!

If you drive an older car with wind wing windows - put all of your valuables in your trunk! These windows can be opened from the outside with a coat hanger - and even I can open a pre-72 car door with a coat hanger! If I can do it, anyone can! Your trunk is always the best bet!

Preventing Parking Lot Theft

Parking at hiking areas during the day can also lead to theft. Never leave valuables in site in your car! You will get a broken window to go along with the loss of your valuables! If you can leave enough gear at your site for all of your other stuff to go in your trunk, you will do best! A car that is empty is less of a risk than one full of junk that may be hiding something!

The most common things stolen are:

Cameras (video included)
Radios (boom boxes and Walkman style)
Game Boy or other electronic game (leave it at home!)
Nice clothing (jackets, Levi's jeans, etc.)

We had one guy who would steal snack food while robbing camp sites. A box of crackers would disappear (along with other valuables) and the empty box would be found in another campsite that had been robbed.

All of the items I have listed are easy to sell. I have never had a problem with camping gear leaving a site - and I worked in some pretty bad areas that had lots of theft problems! I have come to the conclusion that campers don't steal - crooks steal.

There are many stores now that purchase used camping goods - and as these items gain value and become easy to sell you may find this type of theft increases.

Catching the Robber

Some people do catch these thieves in the act. If you find someone stealing your stuff, use common sense!

Like most wild animals, most campground thieves will run if you shout loudly. These people want nothing to do with you - they just want your stuff. You just may be unlucky enough to get a really dangerous criminal - so please don't try to chase this person down!

If you are robbed report any missing items to a Ranger. There are many people who actually make a living by robbing campgrounds and selling the stolen goods. Any information you provide to a Ranger could help to catch the criminal.

Use common sense and have a great trip!

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