Nine tips for preventing troop trailer theft

Imagine this: Your troop is ready to depart for a big campout. All the Scouts and adult volunteers have arrived at the church on time, and the weather is perfect.

But something’s missing: your troop trailer.

Oh, and hundreds or even thousands of dollars in gear inside.

That nightmare scenario turned into a reality for North Ridgeville, Ohio, Troop 153 when its trailer and gear were stolen this month. Thankfully, a local company agreed to pay for the nearly $3,000 in supplies lost in that theft.

But your troop may not be so lucky. That’s why you should take steps now to safeguard your unit’s trailer and its contents.

Acts of theft don’t get much lower than stealing from a Cub Scout pack, Boy Scout troop, Varsity team, or Venturing crew. But it happens all the time.

Here are some ways to ward off potential thieves:

  1. Purchase a wheel lock. Phillip Moore, insurance and risk management specialist at the national BSA headquarters, recommends checking with a boat dealership to buy a device like the ones police officers use on illegally parked cars. “The wheel lock is a visible deterrent and does not allow the trailer to be moved,” Moore says.
  2. Block the doors. Moore also suggests parking your trailer so that its rear doors butt up against a wall or some other permanent structure. Combining that with a wheel lock will make it much tougher for a thief, he says.
  3. Don’t store any gear inside. It may not be practical for all troops, but Jason P.’s unit keeps all of its gear at a separate location. If thieves discover the trailer is empty, they may leave it alone.
  4. Paint the top of your trailer with large identifying information. This way, “if it is stolen it can be identified from the air, where most of those who would steal it would not think to look,” says Kenneth K.
  5. Think before you park. Rather than parking the trailer in a church lot that’s empty most nights, many Scouters said their trailer lives at the home of an adult leader. It’s “just like real estate,” says Eric C. “Location, location, location.”
  6. Make friends in high places. If you don’t want to or can’t park at a Scouter’s home or at your meeting site, ask your local police department if they’ll let you store your trailer there. That’s what Mike L. did. “As far as I know, that’s a pretty good spot,” he says. “I think everyone should consider it!”
  7. Get insured. “Nothing is 100 percent safe,” Ken K. reminds us. So insure your trailer and its contents from theft or damage. It might be money well spent.
  8. Go incognito. A cool design for your trailer can be an important recruiting tool and instill a sense of pride for your troop. But Cindy P. says those markings also might make it a target. “Our trailer has no troop identifying markings on the outside,” she says.
  9. Lock it down. You can never have too many locks, suggests Ron S. “When we built our troop shed and pad behind our charter organization, a heavy chain was cemented into the foundation. So, besides being locked to the pad, the trailer doors are secured with heavy duty discus locks and the hitch with a coupler lock.”
Have any other tips? Share them by leaving a comment below. Of course, there’s one more way to make sure your trailer isn’t stolen. “We don’t use a trailer,” says Aaron D. “Issue resolved.”

75 Comments

  1. Ours is kept within a fenced and locked commercial storage facility. Our chartered organization splits the cost. Gear is kept in a locked storage unit much of the time. While it’s still accessible to many people, entry to the facility is tracked and under video surveillance.

    • Depending on our Quartermaster our trailer has been kept at various places. If the Quartermaster doesn’t have room however we have several members that will hang on to it. It has been inside barns and storage sheds, parked with farm equipment (hard to notice there), and inside a chain-link fence. It is always locked. While it’s not painted we would like to do so. I’ve been told by others that painting does the opposite of listed here in that thieves don’t want to run the risk of stealing such an obvious target and have to worry about re-painting.

      I had a friend who had her horse trailer stolen. The thieves simply pulled into the drive when they were not home, hitched it up, and drove away. In broad daylight not 50 yards from a busy roadway. It wasn’t locked in any way because they never thought someone could or would do such a thing.

  2. Just for added security, I took a “ball” from a hitch and cut the threaded part off. I then place it into the trailer’s receiver and lock it in so that a thief cannot pull up with an undersize ball or shaft and hook-up to the trailer and drive away. Inexpensive way to add security.

    • That is a good idea. Our troop put on a lock ball in addition to locking pin. Both are keyed the same. We picked it up at Walmart fairly cheap.

      One other item to consider is locking lug nuts so wheels cannot be stolen easily.

    • Similarly, I took a golf ball and locked it in place under the receiver. This, too, prevents someone from chaining the trailer to an undersized ball to drive away. Golf ball (free) + $5 long-u padlock beats some of the $15-25 receiver lock units.

  3. when i was in…all our gear was locked inside our troop room at the church inside a storage closet. kinda hard to steal things when they are locked in a church.

  4. We just make our trailer look like junk such as bad paint job, some rust, and we deflate the tires when we leave it so it looks like the tires are junk, when we leave for a trip we just inflate them up. So far its worked for about 4 years

    • There are actually a number of cyclists who use this idea for their commuter bikes. They give faux rust paint jobs, put mis-matches tires on them, and it general keep it cruddy looking. All they care about is that is works well, not how it looks. The cycle groups who have tried this have had zero stolen bikes. LOL

  5. As opposed to leaving it plain like discussed in the article I personally think the more highly decorated it is the less likely they are to steal it. A highly decorated trailer is going to be much easier for anyone looking for it to identify if it is stolen. There are so many plain colored ones being pulled around it would be very hard to identify which one was stolen at a quick glance. I certainly do like the idea of painting identification on the roof.

    • We’ve been having this discussion in our troop. I agree that an unmarked trailer is more likely to be stolen.

      I think Cindy P. was suggesting the contents would be more at risk (people assume there’s scout gear inside) but without markings the whole trailer is likely to be stolen.

      • Our new, plain white trailer was just stolen (incognito was some of the thinking, but graphics budget was the main reason). Next time there will be some very unique paint put on it so we can tell people to watch for if it happens again. Ball lock didn’t work. Wheel locks or something better next time.

    • Just remember that those fancy wraps peel right off. You could “undecorate” most of these fancy trailers in under 30 minutes by yourself! Paint is better, just less fancy. But the roof painting is a great idea.

  6. My Troop’s trailer is parked at the local national guard armory. It has a spot among the motor pool in a fenced yard with full military surveillance. A lot of towns have a national guard post and many would be happy to store your trailer.

  7. Many trailers that are stolen are stored by backing them into a parking space, making it easy to hook up for travel. The thieves come in with a flat-bed truck with a winch and simply pull it onto the truck and take off. The hitch/ball locks won’t do anything to prevent this. Park it so someone can’t easily pull it onto a flat-bed with a winch, and use wheel locks/boots. We keep our gear in our trailer because we don’t have anywhere else to store it – this makes the trailer so heavy it is almost impossible to move without putting ballast (adults) in the back, behind the axel. No, we don’t travel with anyone in the trailer – this is just to swing it around to hook it up to a vehicle.

  8. I agree with Mark. When our trailer was stolen the police officer said that thieves love plain white, (or whatever color), trailers because they are easier to resell. A trailer with lots of large BSA type logo’s on the side is hard to hide, and hard to cover up the logos.

    Another thing is to get reciever lock. They fit up inside the reciever and would be EXTREMELY difficult to cut off. When we lost one of our super heavy duty locks one time I had a guy at work come out with a battery operated grinder and he removed the lock in 15 seconds or less. He said he wouldn’t have been able to do that with the receiver lock.

    • We had a receiver lock on ours..when we went to use our trailer all that was there was the lock. It appears they used a sledge hammer and a couple of hits and it was free and are trailer was gone also it was one the most expensive Master locks that gave us a false sense of security.

      • Yeah, most locks only slow thieves down. That’s why no one solution is enough. But lock the wheels, the hitch, park it nose-in and chain it to a tree, that might be enough. But for all that work, I’d rather get donations to park it inside a storage unit.

  9. Run an Internet search on “wheel chock lock” – chock locks look to cost about a fourth of disc wheel locks. Don’t know if the Amazon.com prices are the cheapest but you can score free shipping – there’s a limited number and I bet they sell out soon. The main vendor looks to be Trimax and you can see their various options at http://www.trimaxlocks.com

  10. I agree with every idea on your list with the exception of one the deal with insurance after checking inho insurance in Missouri I have found it’s next to impossible to get considering that as a non profit organization we can’t personally own there for insure a real estate so you need to convince your charter organization to put on thier insurance plan as to transpertation the trailer is covered by tow vechicle but that does not cover contents also if trailer is off property of insurer it may not be covered. All the other ideas are great but this one may cause some issues.
    Your in scouting
    Jerome Boda
    Scoutmaster T463

  11. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want very distinctive markings on the outside of the trailer that very easily identified it. It seems like that would make it much harder for someone who stole it to disguise it. If it’s just plain colored with no identification markings looks like every other trailer on the street, if it looks distinctive it stands out.

    Putting markings on the roof does sound like a great idea!

  12. Cub scout pack 370, islip, ny…When I was cm, our trailer was stolen! I had it publicized soo much that everyone was looking for it. I had dignitaries involved as well as the police chief. This was a high profile case!!! In the end and a week later the trailer was found by a citizen with minor stuff stolen!!
    We had lots of donations to help us as well as another trailer…as sad of a thing this was. It also brought our pack together!!

    • Most people who steal trailers want them for lawn equipment!! So If the trailer is marked up with identified insignia the thief’s would have to remove it and paint it…our trailer was defaced a little…and If they see scout trailer on the side. The stuff inside is not worth much on the market

  13. No. 8 is wrong…BOY SCOUT TROOP on the side makes it more identifiable if stolen. Plus since most happen at night, a sharp eyed police officer might ask why a Boy Scout Trailer is moving at 3am. Or the neighbors might ask why the Scouts are parked at so and so’s lot? He has no kids….

  14. We don’t have this problem. Each scout in our troop, owns his own gear. No insurance needed, no extra gas needed for whoever pulls it, no wheel locks, or well-lit areas or paint jobs. If his pack gets stolen, it’s easy enough to turn around and replace that in a day.

    • For our troop the trailer is the only way to get the boys own gear to camp. 6 adults and 23 boys going to camp have alot of stuff, that doesn’t fit in 6 vehicles full of people!

  15. I wonder how long it really would take to remove some of these items from a trailer. Would it be worth a thief’s time and effort? Most of the gear in our trailer is used (some used quite a bit) as is the trailer. Certainly a used trailer could get a thief some money but wouldn’t there be easier ways?

  16. Our Troops trailer in Summerville SC was stolen last week, Sept 29th. It had a latch lock on it and parked at the scoutmaster house.

  17. With the exception of the wheel boot, every trailer stolen this year had one or more of those security devices or techniques. Setup a Google News alert for boy scout trailer and you’ll get a weekly notice of another one gone. It’s the surest sign the economy has recovered. Hint: some professions really use enclosed cargo trailers.

    My favorite was the troop that lost two trailers in two years even though they chained both wheels, used a coupler lock, and stored it in a locked, chain link storage compound.

  18. As a former leader in a troop whose trailer was stolen, here are my thoughts:

    — Hitch lock, effective, until it isn’t. These are worth the money, but only just. This can’t be your only defense.
    — Wheel lock, effective if used properly. I’ve seen them installed loosely, which makes me worry.
    — Padlocks, get the best available. Go to the locksmith, not the big box store. Our replacement trailer had the extra strength padlocks, while the local pack’s trailer, parked next to it, had run-of-the-mill locks. Guess which one was broken into.
    — If you leave your trailer “plain”, leave it “ugly” plain. Our trailer wasn’t stolen until it had a fresh coat of paint.
    — If you put your unit name, etc, on your trailer, make it hard to cover up or take off.
    — Mark the contents. We got most of our gear back, with the notable exception of the trailer.
    — Make an inventory. We didn’t beforehand, so we quickly understood the value of one.
    — Impress on your chartered organization that they own the unit’s gear, including the trailer. If their first question isn’t, “How much insurance should we have on it?”, bring up that subject immediately.
    — Back the trailer up to a wall or fence such that it is difficult to open the rear door(s), even if unlocked. (Ours also has a side door, which negates this tip, somewhat.)
    — Our chartered organization doesn’t like for us to keep outdoor gear in their building. (They made us keep most of the big stuff in the attic, anyway, which was impractical.) If your chartered organization will allow it, keep the most expensive gear inside, not in the trailer.

  19. When I went to purchase liability and property damage insurance, my Am Fam agent said they could not insure the contents. Sure would be a wonderful thing if national could work with the property/casualty insurance industry to secure coverage for Troop property. Randy T. Troop 46, Des Moines, IA

  20. The problem with the scout markings here in Oklahoma is theat people steal them for mobile meth labs. They want the markings because no one suspects a scout trailer as a meth lab.

  21. How about not having a trailer at all? Do more backpacking and less car camping. You won’t need as much equipment and certainly won’t need a trailer. The boys will thank you for it as well.

      • Yes Some have resources close to home. Not living in a wilderness area means we travel to them. Without a trailer will mean one less troop.

        Trailer needs to be titled by insurance holder. If charter. Org. Is afraid to have it on their insurance and a troop is not a intity able to be insured (formed a corporation as an example) then that leaves a leader as title holder (those states requiring this). Now there is the choir and expense of title and license reissue when leaders change and of course the age old problem of personality conflicts making people afraid of this way. I have stored trailer 30 of past 35 years, and members have never thought this a good idea.

        We are uninsured keep at Scoutmasters, well marked, locked doors and coupler lock (most of time) but believe what has helped MOST is low crime zone. 20+ years ago living in town trailer was piece of junk but all the camping contents were stolen leaving trailer. Recovered most items 2 years latter anonymously. Home owners insureance did cover some of the loss since it was in my care. Had it been on a trip then NO coverage. Guess we should have put insurance cost in a saving account we would be ahead now and self insured.

    • We have a troop like that in our city and boys chose to go there for that reason. The flip side is that many more boys do NOT chose that and go to troops that do ‘trailer camping’ because THAT is their preference. Would you rather boys dropped out ?

    • Verizon has a GPS Fleet tracking service. They also offer ‘Asset Tracking’ which fleets can use to track trailers and other towed equipment. Cost might be prohibitive, about 150 or so foe the unit, and 30/month for monitoring. I am not sure about the Asset Tracking

  22. Invest in a pair of good jackstands. When you back the trailer up against a wall so that the doors are not accessible, jack it up, set it on the stands, then remove the wheels. Be sure to lock the receiver too.

  23. Our troop had multiple measures in place. 1. “Boot” wheel lock 2.Tongue lock 3. 400lbs of concrete in the ground tethered to a high security chain that goes around the front frame of the trailer 4. Troop logo on side 5. Troop # on top painted for air visibility 6. All external door hinge hardware (bolt heads) filled with JB Weld 7. Back doors up against structure so they can’t be opened without moving the trailer 8. High security disk locks on doors.

    Never had an issue in the 10 years I was with the troop… where I acted as Quartermaster for 3 of them. Have to make it a difficult target so they move on.

  24. Our troop had the following;

    Decals covering 60% of each side.
    Boot lock on 1 tire.
    Ball Hitch.
    Large 3/4 chain wrapped around light post through holes in wheel with heavy guage padlock.
    Backed up to smaller church trailer.
    Flat disc locks on all doors.

    More locks on the trailer then on my house, but at our church on a busy street and never stolen.

  25. Weld your troop number onto the frame, axle(s), etc. Remove one of the wood side panels and write on the wall behind it your troop number, name, and contact info, and then reattach the panel. You can try to keep your trailer from being stolen, but a scout is always prepared. If you prepare for the possibility of your trailer being stolen, you just might get it back if it does.

  26. OK this seems like a bit of a hack, but I have seen enough of those little RFID chip key chain attachments cheap enough, why not hide one in the trailer? Would be difficult to locate.

  27. I am just coming onboard as SM of our Troop, and we have a trailer with none of these security measures parked outside at our church (charter org). I greatly appreciate this discussion and will deploy some of these security measures. Thank you. Scout on!

  28. Park it, then remove the lug nuts while leaving the tire on. If someone steals it they won’t get far. Most lock are easily cut with a cordless grinder.

  29. We encased a GPS locator and enough battery power for 2 years in the wall of the trailer. It recharges the battery pack when its hooked to the truck off the marker lights. Unless someone cuts into the frame of the trailer or tries to rewire the lights to find the power splice they will have zero idea where it is or that they are being tracked. If the trailer moves more than 50 feet from its garage 3 people get notified immediately.

  30. When you park it, have the scouts take the wheels off. It will make it more difficult to take the trailer and teach the scouts how to change a spare tire. It may even satisfy some requirements. Also, it will give you a chance to inspect and air up the tires.

  31. Can anyone point me in a good direction for all of the details in buying and insuring a trailer? Our troop is seriously thinking about doing this, and I’ve gotten conflicting info. as to how to go about it.
    Thanks!

    • I’m sure your state depends greatly. In illinois we just use BSA Troop (#) (city) as name and they title it (I know it’s not a true enity but it works.) Our sponsor will not permit us to title to them or carry insurance on their property isurance so NO inland mari e policy.

  32. The majority of the time, the thieves want the trailer, not the things inside. While some do fence the stolen trailers, a lot of them around here are cut up and sold as scrap simply because it’s easier for them to sell the scrap metal rather than risk getting caught trying to sell a hot trailer. They have it down to a science. Scouts aren’t the only targets; the Red Cross and other relief agencies have all had trailers stolen from very high profile locations.

    As a former law enforcement officer, I’ll tell you that locks are great, and having the troop number welded on the frame in multiple places is a great way to positively ID your trailer. Another thing to consider, even though it can be a pain at times, is to store the trailer on cinder blocks with the wheels off. They won’t be able to pull off with it if it doesn’t roll.

    • I agree with Bill on his thoughts. I would add most states allow (even if it isn’t required) to tag (license plate) the trailer. This coupled with putting owner applied numbers (troop number) on the trailer in a manner it can’t be easily removed help. Wheel and hitch locks all help – basically the harder you make it, the less likely it will end up being a victim of theft. Bright colors for paint or wraps work well also because it stands out and thieves want to blend in with the crowd.

      This sounds weird but think like a criminal. Think about different stories you have heard or read about and brain storm for ideas to make it more difficult to steal. There isn’t any combination of things that will eliminate the threat, however you can minimize it greatly by adding stuff here and there. Check with local hardware or automotive stores about a donation or possibly discounted price (take a letter head or a 501c3 letter from your chartered org). The more creative you can become the more the odds will increase in your favor. Call your local police department or Sheriff’s office and ask for an investigator (or other officer/deputy) for tips.

      YIS,
      Jon Copeland, ASM T2000, Bartlesville Oklahoma
      Investigator with Washington County Sheriff’s Office

  33. Some say that markings make it harder to conceal if stolen. One white trailer looks like the rest on the road. People notice a scout trailer. Don’t put gear into it, until the day of the trip or the night before. The wheel lock is a must as well as a lock on the hitch. Our trailer got drug 75 years across a parking lot with the wheel not turning and then they gave up.

  34. Rather than a ball lock, in some situations you can take the hitch clear off. With our trailer, remove two bolds and the hitch comes right off! Quick, easy, cheap and effective!

  35. I completely disagree with the idea that you shouldn’t have logo’s on the trailer. Several years ago our plain white trailer was stolen, and when the cop arrived he asked for a description of it. When he was told it was a plain, white, 6×10 trailer, he folded up his notebook and you could just see him mentally closing the case right there. He said these kinds of trailers get stolen all the time, and that there was something like 10,000 plain, white, 6×10 trailers in the 7 country metro area.

    He said without some kind of distinctive markings the odds of you ever getting a plain white trailer back were exceedingly slim.

    We now have good logo’s on all the sides, the doors, the roof is painted, the interior is highly customized and painted, we have a tire bar, good hitch lock, and and even better ball lock. Plus it’s parked at my house under a big light that comes on after dark.

  36. We park our trailer at the Scoutmasters house. He shares a driveway with his father (retired sheriff) and a current sheriff’s deputy. No problem with someone trying to steal our trailer.

  37. The scouts being nonprofit organization can’t own property. It belongs to the charter organization. Our Charter organization didn’t have proper insurance on our Trailer even though they billed the troop for it. Something about a cost cutting measure. We found out when our Trailer was stolen loaded with camping gear and Chuck boxes. We raised more eyes for a new trailer and it stays at the scout masters house locked and secured.

  38. get a high strength cable and a heavy duty lock and slip the cable through the wheels on one side of the trailer(keep in mind this only works if you have a 2 axle trailer) and lock the cable together. that way the trailer will not be able to roll. it can be dragged along the concrete but it will not roll. therefore making it harder to steal. for extra security put a cable on both sides of the trailer.

  39. Ours has been broken into twice. First time they cut the locks and the second time they cut the door hasp off. A third time they vandalized it by ripping the seal gaskets off and smashing the lights. The fourth time they shot up the sides with a .22 caliber weapon. The bullets passed through the rolled up tents.

  40. Also, get an equipment gps system, and set up a digital fence. If it is taken you [and police] know exactly where it is. And, if it travels outside the digital fence limits, you get alerted on your cellphone or computer.

    Handy if it is taken while you are all out on a trip & away from the vehicles!!

  41. It may be worthwhile to remove one of the wheels and store it inside if the trailer is not used too often. Unless the thief brings his own tire and wheel, he won’t be towing it anywhere. A solar spotlight would deter thieves. I’ve hung a motion activated door alarm on the inside of the trailer door. Any big motion sets it off. Noise draws attention to the problem.

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  6. This is how you organize the inside of a troop trailer

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