Improvements to caravan design and the insistence by insurance companies that high levels of security need to be in place; has meant that caravan theft has been in decline for the last few years.
When thinking about security for your caravan you need to consider three different situations, namely when it is in storage, in transit and on site. Prevention measures should be taken, not only against the possible theft of the vehicle but also its contents.
Before considering prevention advice for the caravan, a few words about buying a second hand van and checks you should make, to ensure that what you are buying is genuine and is not stolen.
Since 1992 each caravan has a VIN number, similar to a car. The VIN or CRiS number is etched, or die stamped, into 10 locations - i.e., the windows, the door, and the chassis. This is usually accompanied by a sticker that says; “Warning: this caravan is security marked and electronically protected by CRiS.”
If you purchase a new caravan, you will receive registration paperwork entitled ‘the Touring Caravan Registration Document (CVR6)’. This document contains the name of the caravan’s registered keeper, a description of the caravan, and the caravan’s Vehicle ID Number (VIN).
When buying a second hand vehicle this document should be provided; however, it is not a legal requirement to re-register the van with the new owners details. Therefore its previous history may not be complete.
Even with this shortcoming, CRiS is a valuable tool to help check the identity of a caravan; uncovering whether it has been reported stolen, has any outstanding finance left on it, or has been registered as an insurance write off. CRiS registration can be contacted by phoning 01722 411430.
It is also worthwhile going on the http://www.caravantheftalerts.co.uk/ site to check for any reports of it being stolen.
Tampering with the CRIS number
Thieves know that this identifies the caravan so they will attempt to alter the number, or in some case remove it altogether. Look out for any damage where this number should be.
Damage to the towing hitch
Damage to the towing hitch and assembly is often relatively easy to spot; a burned brake overrun rubber is an indicator that heat has been applied in the area, possibly to remove a hitch lock. Damage to the head itself often results in rusty areas on the hitch, which is another sign of interference.
If a relatively new caravan has a hitch without a built in stabiliser then this could suggest that the hitch was damaged as a result of a criminal attack. A new stabiliser unit would cost around £250, while a pressed steel unit costs around £25.
Do all the wheels match?
This is a very obvious indicator - do they all match or is there an odd one? Often a wheel is damaged during the theft process and with many caravans now being fitted with alloy wheels, a steel wheel on a caravan (particularly a twin axle when there is only one steel wheel) suggests something is amiss.
When purchasing a new caravan, ensure the original registration document is given to you upon purchase and ask the seller for a written receipt to confirm ownership has transferred to you. The receipt should show the buyer’s full name and address, the seller’s full name and address, the make, model and 17 digit ID number of the caravan, the date, price paid, and should be signed by both parties.
According to the 2011 insurance data, 57% of caravans are stolen from outside of the owners home. Most of these occurred at night.
For a theft to occur, 3 things must happen at the same time and in the same place. Removing one of these completely eliminates the possibility of the theft taking place.
1/ A potential offender needs to be present.
At home you cannot prevent a likely offender passing through, an otherwise safe neighbourhood. So no measures can be taken to reduce this risk.
2/ A suitable target needs to be available.
A caravan is a suitable target as it has value and is usually highly visible. Therefore, you need to concentrate on its accessibility and preventing its removal.
Accessibility - Many people feel that because their property is within their private space ie on their drive, this in itself is a deterrent. This is a falsehood. If a potential offender is intent on taking your personal property they will have no respect for your private space either. Accessibility can be made more difficult by parking the vehicle against solid objects such as walls or trees and the use of security posts.
Preventing removal - Security at home should be as robust as you can make it, assume it is being left in an open public space. The two main preventive measures are hitch locks and wheel clamps. These products should be to “Sold Secure” gold standard as a minimum.
Other products include locking wheel nuts, ground anchors for securing chains attached to the caravan and security posts, all of which are designed for use at home to hinder the illegal removal of your caravan.
“Sold Secure” is an independent testing house that manufacturers send their products to, for evaluation. The tests are performed by skilled locksmiths who use every tool available to try and compromise the security of the products. The grading system reflects the degree of difficulty and time taken to achieve this. Most, if not all, insurance companies insist that gold standard product are used for caravan security items. However, there are some products that exceed this classification and are given a Diamond rating.
3/ The target has no suitable guardian.
Whilst there is someone present within the home, your caravan is reasonably secure. The absence of a family member or a good neighbour, who would normally look out for your property, removes this security. Physical “guardians” such as CCTV or alarms won’t stop an attempted theft but will increase the chances of the offender being seen. No thief wants attention drawn to their presence nor relish the possibility of being subsequently recognised.
Few, if any, would fit CCTV for the sole purpose of guarding their caravan and dedicated alarms are not available. However, cheap and effective alarms normally used for personal use or protecting sheds and entrance doors can be employed effectively.
Personal alarms are activated by removing a pin, with a little thought these can be adapted to provide protection to either the movement of the caravan or a possible break in. For instance an alarm could be secured on the chassis of the caravan, the pin attached to some string which in turn is anchored to the ground. If the caravan is moved the pin is retracted and the alarm will sound, as the alarm is attached to the caravan it will continue to sound until either removed or the battery dies. Similar uses can be devised inside of the caravan on doors or windows, shed alarms and dedicated door / window alarms can also be used at very little cost. These type of devices can also be bought with “Sold Secure” accreditation.
As mentioned before the one thing which you cannot control if your caravan is stored at home is the likely hood of a potential offender being in the vicinity. This is where secure storage sites come into their own.
Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association (CaSSOA) sites are one of the best, and most secure, options. The principle behind such sites is their ability to restrict access and consequently virtually eliminate the third point of the crime triangle. This is achieved by having secure perimeter protection, controlled access, alarms, CCTV, security lighting and the presence of a Warden on site 24/7.
Sites are awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze accreditation according to the level of security provided. Theft from such sites is less than 3% of the National total.
Whereas thefts from poorly secured sites for long term storage are the second most popular place for caravan thefts with 27% of reported incidents plus an additional 11% coming from small farm storage facilities.
If considering using such a site ask yourself the following questions
- How is the site accessed?
- Is CCTV available?
- Are gates fitted and what type are they?
- Do the gates have locks?
- Is there adequate lighting?
- Do you know anyone else who uses the same facility; what are their experiences?
- Have there been any thefts in the past?
- Is there the right amount of separation between units? (This is important for fire prevention).
In Essex there are currently six CaSSOA sites four Gold and two Silver having a total of over 1500 stands.
An additional benefit in using these sites for storage, is that you don't advertise the fact you are away, each time the caravan is not on the drive.
Security whilst in transit, especially when you stop off for a break in your journey, can be achieved by using a Hitch Lock that can be kept in-situ whilst towing. Always keep doors and windows locked and keep easily removable valuables out of sight, this includes your car as well as the caravan.
When choosing a site it is preferable to use one with controlled access. Use visible deterrents such as hitch locks and wheel clamps.
Awnings can be a great deterrent few thieves would steal a caravan with an awning attached because of the additional time required in removing it.
If you are unlucky to have your van stolen, you will need to provide the Police with information to prove you are the owner. This also applies to equipment within the caravan.
Put your postcode on high-value items such as microwaves, laptops and cameras.
Mark upholstery with the last six digits of your CRiS number, in marker pen on the underside.
Have unique markings hidden in the caravan. A campsite sticker on the inside of the wardrobe or a slight scratch down the side of the caravan can be a great way to mark the caravan as being individual. Try to put marks and stickers in obscure areas that a thief might not think of looking so they won’t be removed.
Put the last six characters of your caravan’s CRiS number or post code on your caravan roof using large stick-on letters that can be read by roadside cameras.
Make sure that you are registered with The Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS).
It is not unknown for DVLA to make errors when issuing licences.
If you have taken a test that entitles you to tow heavier vehicles, do ensure that this information has been added to your driving licence. If it has been missed and you are stopped by the Police, you could be subjected to a heavy fine, plus your holiday coming to an abrupt end.
If your caravan is stolen report it to the police as soon as possible. Add the details to the Caravan Theft Alert web site, so other owners are aware and can report any sightings.
Record the details of your caravan on this Top Tips card.
The more time it takes to remove your property, the smaller the risk that anyone will try.