Lightcatch logo
Darren Boyer, July 14 2023

Seven Most Likely Ways Your Holiday Trailer, RV, Boat, or ATV Will Get Stolen This Summer

Peak season for high value thefts involving holiday trailers, RVs, boats, and ATVs is normally between June 1 to October 31.

Too many are left devastated and face substantial financial losses.

In this article, I'll explore seven common reasons that thieves get away with stealing these things, and why there are security holes that allow it to happen.  

These items are often worth tens of thousands of dollars and I've tried to make this article worthwhile for the reader to really be able to avoid any bitter experiences.

1. The Parking Lot of A Commercial Business

Some of the highest theft locations are dealerships, service garages, and tire shops of any type of business. These locations are constantly scoped out for potential targets.

After measuring where crimes happen across thousands of thefts, it became very clear these types of locations have a higher amount of risk from crime than almost any other type of commercial yard.

A holiday trailer, RV, boat, or ATV left unsupervised at one of these targeted locations becomes one of  the best opportunities for a thief to take something of high value.

Whether on or off a trailer, these toys are juicy targets as keys may not need to be secured, or locks don’t need to punched out before the theft can take place like more difficult thefts require. This vulnerability exists more at night, but the daytime risk is also very real.

Taking a recreation vehicle in for service should include clear guidelines that it is not to be left unattended in an unsecured compound.

Keep in mind that in many cases, the dealership itself is not at any financial risk if your property is stolen at their facility.

We’ve seen several cases where the staff will put in a token effort to show they care, and no doubt the staff do care, but the owner of the business has allowed conditions to exist that make it extremely common for these high value thefts to take place. At the end of the day the theft costs no one money but the customer, too many times.

Here are some guidelines to help keep your rv safer when taking it to a commercial business.

A good friend of mine took his trailer in for new tires. He requested they keep the vehicle inside if they did not finish that day. Instead, it was left in their parking lot, with a locked hitch installed at the end of the work day.

That night the trailer was stolen. Even though the business did not keep their word about where it would be stored at night, the amount of effort put in to help that customer was in one word, terrible.

This couple were out many thousands of dollars as their insurance was for the cost of the trailer not the replacement value.

The trailer was now over 10 years old and the replacement value was significantly higher. On top of that, it was mostly loaded and ready for the weekend.

Many thousands of uninsured items were lost that night due to one tire shop being careless about how their customers’ things were protected.

It’s not that mistakes can’t happen. What is frustrating to see is when those mistakes happen over and over and the only people paying for the mistakes are the unsuspecting customers.

2. Limited Effectiveness of Security Cameras

Security cameras are commonly used to protect property. However, security cameras do not help to stop most crimes before they happen.

Camera owners often believe that they will see an alert and then avert a crime but that is almost never the case. The mobile phone owner almost always misses the alerts until several hours later.  Across thousands of cases, the average time delay before noticing a crime has occurred seems to be around twelve hours later.

Many of these RV thefts can be done in under ten minutes, with twenty minutes being a long period of time.  After that, they are long gone.

Owners should supplement security cameras with other preventative measures, such as instant alarms to enhance security and discourage theft.

3. Leaving Vehicles in Locked, Unsupervised Compounds:

Paying to leave holiday trailers, RVs, boats, or ATVs at a business that provides locked, unsupervised compounds provides a false sense of security far too often.

Thieves are often customers of storage compounds as well, as these facilities also provide them a convenient place to store stolen items. As a customer, they can then learn and exploit the weak points in the compound's security, making it easier for them to gain access and steal things.

Even when the compound is just RV storage and does not include indoor unit storage, there are still high risks of theft.

While there are likely plenty of great compound operators, there are also too many who have a very cavalier attitude about the thefts their customers experience.

These locations are targeted less than garages and dealerships, but a lot more than commercial businesses who may own similar assets like quads, side by sides, or boats that are stored in a yard.

A potential customer should carefully follow the money when it comes to who will pay when a loss occurs, before choosing a storage compound.

• A compound that will share in the financial losses has a motivation to protect your assets.
• A compound that will actively and professionally expose thefts is a good indicator their interests are aligned with yours. Many compound operators prefer to keep thefts at their facility as quiet as possible. This approach may be good for their business, but it provides you the customer very little help if you become a victim. Asking to see a formal policy around exposure of crime or past examples are good indicators their interests are aligned with yours.
• The security cameras are often for the compound, if they themselves are a crime victim. This footage rarely gets used to publish when a customer is a victim.  

Whenever possible, owners should opt for a choice where there is a live in residence and or much more deterrence at the facility than a gate and some security cameras. When there are stronger security measures than these in place, it shows the owner is wanting to actively prevent their site from being targeted.

4. Reliance on Gates or Locked Buildings:

I once talked to a woman who waited one week until after their trailer was stolen to call the police. When I gently asked why it took so long to contact the police, she explained that the pain of seeing something so valuable to her be stolen was such a violation she couldn’t emotionally bear to deal with it any sooner.

After storing her trailer on a property they owned, in a locked building with a locked gate, that was secluded and where everything was invisible from the main road they were so shocked. She was also disheartened that someone would be that hurtful to go through three different locks, trespass and deliberately steal someone’s holiday trailer.

What she didn’t realize is that a desperate thief doesn’t look at this crime from her point of view. The criminal looks at what they are doing from their point of view.

I’ve read where at that moment they are thinking ‘If they are rich enough to not care about this thing, they can afford to have it stolen.’ There is some sense of truth to this, no matter how illegal and morally wrong the theft is. Let me explain why the criminals thoughts are partially true.

While gates and locked buildings are designed to provide security, they only take five minutes to get through with a cordless grinder. To the thief, five minutes of effort means they really aren’t well protected at all if that is all it takes any time, day or night.

 5. Limited Effectiveness of Game Cameras:

Game cameras, commonly used for wildlife monitoring, are sometimes employed for security purposes. However, they are not designed to provide real-time surveillance or immediate theft prevention.

Owners relying solely on game cameras may only discover the theft after the fact, limiting the chances of apprehending the culprits. Supplementing game cameras with more robust security measures, such as alarms or motion-activated lights, can provide better protection against theft.

If you want to see someone frustrated with the police and criminals look on social media for the words ‘theft or stolen and game cam’. You will likely see grainy photo’s, usually black and white, and someone asking for the thief to be identified.

Learning who the thief is, gives some sense of satisfaction but it doesn’t work very well with the police and the courts. The justice system needs far more than a name.

I’ve worked with so many couples who were building a new home and had parked their holiday trailer and tools at the construction site and then installed a game camera for protection.

One couple offered a $25,000 reward after their fifth wheel was stolen and their game camera had failed. It would have been so much easier to put up a temporary security system that responded in a failsafe way.

Like security cameras, game camera owners usually miss the alert of a suspect when it is sent. Even if they receive the alert there is no deterrence to stop the crime before it happens.

6. Overreliance on GPS Tracking Systems:

The best security is to stop the crime before it happens. GPS systems wait until after the theft has taken place to serve the owner. While GPS tracking systems can be useful in tracking stolen vehicles, relying solely on this technology can be a mistake.

To stop a crime before it happens use instant electronic recognition of a trespasser, an external siren, and two-way audio to really stop a suspect.

The right type of system never involves a single person getting an alert to their phone. A single alert to a phone is a problematic failure point when it comes to theft prevention or stolen item recovery.

On top of not being able to help until after the equipment is stolen savvy thieves are often aware of GPS systems and can disable or remove them promptly, rendering them useless.

Commercial businesses with multiple pieces of equipment have reported that the maintenance of the batteries needed to keep the GPS system active is also a problem.

For example, the RV is kept in storage away from your home property, the battery dies, and then when it is picked up to be put into use, there is such a gap in time the batteries don’t get replaced right away. 

7. Leaving a trailer parked on the side of the road after a breakdown

I wish I didn't have to write this last one.  Someone experiencing a break down and then having to leave their vehicle and or vehicle and trailer is hard enough.  Coming back just a few hours later to find everything has been stolen is sickening.  However, owners should know this is a very real threat. 

I don't have data on how often this occurs, but it is far more often than people expect.  

The best prevention in this case may be to ask someone to physically attend the equipment left behind.  This may not be safe or practical to do it alone.    

I can think of at least a few cases where it would have been much more cost effective to call a security guard service and have them attend the location for $500 - $1,000 than it would be to pay for the losses that occurred.


In my experience, these items are stolen when people rely on ideas about theft prevention without any real proof those ideas work other than an example or two. Examples of game cameras, security cameras, GPS trackers and storage compounds working are much easier to come by than the more frequent examples of when these ideas bitterly failed the owners.  

People talk about the wins, but they keep their losses silent.

By understanding the common ways these toys and recreational vehicles are stolen, owners can implement effective preventative measures to safeguard their investments. I’d love for more to enjoy their summer adventures with peace of mind and minimize the risk of becoming victims of theft.

These seven security holes may be a little controversial.  I'd love to hear any comments or concerns.

Written by

Darren Boyer


Previous The Most Dangerous Cities In Alberta – June 2023
Next The Highest Crime Rates In Alberta – July 2023