March 14, 2007 Vehicle Theft
After occupying the unenviable position of being the "Car Theft Capital" of the United States, we, the citizens of Stanislaus County, will soon find ourselves out of the number one spot. The combined efforts of the community, the courts and law enforcement have led to nearly a 30 percent drop in auto theft as compared to 2005. That is good news of course, but now a new vehicle theft-related problem is rearing its ugly head. We are seeing instances when trailers have been taken from driveways, streets, orchards and the like. Even those equipped with tongue locks or chained to a solid object can be stolen in seconds. And since trailers have no engines, they can be taken in silence, with the owner waking in the morning to discover the theft.
Recent statistics show a sharp rise in the number of utility type trailers being stolen. And most of them, unlike our many stolen cars, are not being recovered. These kinds of thefts are occurring daily, and unless we take some concrete preventative measures, the problem will soon become another crime crisis for our community.
Trailers are easy to steal and difficult to track afterwards. If you own one or more of the various kinds of trailers, like car haulers, box trailers, ATV transporters, garden equipment trailers and the like, inspection of them will reveal that their identification numbers often only exist in the form of a sticker. These stickers can be removed instantly and a replacement applied with ease. Many utility trailer companies construct their products without stamping in the vehicle identification number. I do not know why they skip this easy, but very important step, but it certainly causes problems for the police and victims.
Thieves often will apply at the Department of Motor Vehicles for new titles and obtain new serial numbers for the stolen trailers. Once this happens, the trailer appears legitimate, even to the most discerning police officers. Therefore, it is very important that trailer owners take immediate steps to stamp the issued vehicle identification numbers into various places of the frame. It helps to stamp the numbers in not-so-obvious places such that a trailer thief might overlook the hidden numbers. Even if the offender grinds the numbers off, the police can recover them through specialized methods.
Tongue locks and chains are inadequate, since a thief can defeat these devices quite rapidly. It is best to place an unused trailer in a secured area, or parked such that it cannot be moved (between other vehicles, for example) because of adjacent obstacles. Simple awareness is an important factor. I believe that trailers parked on the street are most vulnerable to theft. If the trailer must be parked street-side on occasion, you will need to lock the tongue, run one or more chains through the wheels and park it in a visible, yet hard-to-reach spot. It would also be a great help to do things to distinguish its appearance. Most of these trailers look alike, so if you can paint some unique (and obvious) marks on yours, it will deter the thieves and also make it easier for the police to spot and recover it.
This new trend in utility trailer thefts is not yet a "crime wave" per se, but it could easily get to that point if owners react too late to protect their investments. If you have questions about vehicle ID numbers, theft prevention measures, etc., please be sure to contact your local law enforcement agency.