One of the worst ways to end a beautiful day with nature is to find that your vehicle has been vandalized. A walk back to your vehicle should feel like a victory lap not one of the worst days ever. Unfortunately, creeps aren’t only found in populated areas. When some unscrupulous people feel they are alone they will vandalize and steal without remorse.
So, to keep your tires from getting slashed or windows bashed in follow these steps. Most of them are common sense, but when you are getting ready to enjoy yourself and your mind is on the trail it’s easy to forget the things that we leave behind. Remember, most of these locations don’t have cell reception, so we must protect our ride home. Follow these tips to preventing parking break-ins to make sure you have a car when you come off the trail and to have one with everything within it where you left it and in-tact.
Steps to Keeping Your Automobile Safe
- Empty out your car - My parents came from New York, so were street-smart. I grew up with them telling me to keep everything in the car hidden. Don’t leave my Walkman on the seat (yes, I am old) or someone will bash the window in for it. They would also tell me never to leave change where someone could see it. They were right; thieves will take the smallest things just because they can. Keep anything that you leave in the car inside the trunk. Don’t leave water, blankets, clothing, food and I mean nothing in the view of your car. It’s just asking for trouble to do so to either take it or hide it.
- Clean out the car before you get there - Make sure you stash your stuff that you will leave in your trunk before you get to the trailhead. If others are in the lot or spot something you leave in your trunk, they make take it. Professional thieves may be casing out the lot just waiting for you to display your inventory. All they have to do is wait a while, and once you’re gone, they can help themselves to your hard-earned items.
- Unscrew the door lock button - If you have the old-style door knobs, unscrew them. It really only takes a couple of minutes and 6’ of cord to open a door that has these old door knobs. A pro can probably be in your car faster than it would take you to walk around your vehicle once. You have to remember that these types of people can find value where you would not. They could pop open your hood and take the battery (probably over $100 value) or even just a seat headrest which is worth about the same. They can easily make hundreds of dollars off of the mistake of leaving the door lock buttons on parked cars. You can even buy anti-theft ones, but I just unscrew mine.
- Don’t show off - I would never take my Sunday driver to the trailhead. I take my old truck just because I am more likely to have someone leave me a few bucks under the wiper blade than I would have them key my nice new car. Some people will damage your nice-looking car just because they are jealous. If you only have one nice car, borrow your dad’s beater.
- Research Break-ins - Look for news of any break-ins in the area. Many times you can find out from fellow hikers, area newspapers, local police or even ask at local businesses. Generally, break-ins will happen often in an area, and then you can avoid that particular trailhead. When you get there also do a little scouting for signs of break-ins, (broken glass, items thrown about) and follow your gut instinct. If I see a bunch of vehicles at the trailhead I also will grab my video camera and videotape all the vehicles and plate numbers just in case the authorities may need them later.
Areas that have had recent break-ins and vandalism will most likely have a heightened police presence. You may actually be safer in this area, but again speak with the local authorities and ask for any advice they can give about the area you want to go.
- Park Smart - Don’t just park in any spot at the trailhead. Parking at the end of the lot may give criminals more privacy to steal from you or damage your vehicle. Find the spot with the least amount of privacy and no blind spots. The more people that pass your vehicle means less time that criminals have access to your ride.
Keeping your ride home safe should be just as important as prepping for your hike. Following these simple steps will make things harder for criminals and vandals. Also learning to trust your instincts will go a long way towards making your hike and ride home happy and safe.