In Beaverton, Ore., Troop 618 was “just kind of jarred.”
In Columbia, S.C., volunteers with Troop 900 were “really angry.”
And in Louisville, Ky., Troop 72’s leaders called what happened “really disappointing.”
As far as we can tell, the Scouts and Scouters in these three troops have never met. But they share a similarly heartbreaking story: their troop trailers were stolen.
News stories about Scout trailer theft are unnervingly easy to find — three to five per month, by our unofficial count. We’ve even covered the topic on Bryan on Scouting before, sharing this list of 12 tips to prevent theft.
There’s also a BSA Safety Moment on the subject with additional information and resources every trailer-owning Scout unit should read.
Today, we’re taking a different spin on the topic. We asked three leaders whose trailers were stolen or burglarized to tell us what they’d do differently in hindsight.
By sharing what happened, these leaders hope to prevent other Scout troops from suffering a similar fate.
Troop 447 of Laurinburg, N.C.
The trailer belonging to Roger Ladd’s troop was stolen right out of the chartered organization’s parking lot.
“They cut the padlocks, tore up the lock on the tongue of the trailer and were trying to burn our logo off of the sides and doors when the police finally caught up to them,” he says.
The troop had stored most — but not all — of its gear inside the trailer. All of that was long gone when the trailer was recovered.
Looking back, Ladd says the troop “should have been more consistent about locking to the cement pillar in the corner of the parking lot.”
Troop 447 was later able to upgrade to a newer trailer. This one has a boot, a GPS tracker and is stored in a locked, fenced area.
Troop 634 of Reisterstown, Md.
In the end, Troop 634 was pretty lucky.
When thieves nabbed their trailer two years ago, they cut through a tongue lock and tire lock. Police found the trailer a few days later with most of the gear inside. The only damage was to the door that the thieves had jimmied open.
“Police said they were likely looking for a trailer to use to steal motorcycles,” Alex Wolf says, “and the built-in wooden shelves made it worthless to the thieves” because they left no room for the intended loot.
After the incident, the troop replaced the tongue and tire locks, added a chain that runs through the wheels and around a light bar, and started parking the trailer under the light bar.
“It was better lit but slightly less accessible for the Scouts during meetings because it was on the opposite side of the building from the meeting room,” Wolf says.
Troop 7 of Shirley, Mass.
When someone broke into Troop 7’s trailer as it sat parked outside the club that charters the troop, the only physical damage was a cut lock.
The more hurtful blow was what the thieves took — a canopy and the tents the troop takes on weekend adventures.
“We have since put on more secure locks and moved the trailer closer to the clubhouse,” says Susan Matthews Dean. “We have a separate storage container, unlabeled, that holds most of our equipment.”
No method is perfect
In some cases, thieves have been so brazen that they’ll steal a trailer even if a wheel lock can’t be removed.
In Whitehouse, a city in East Texas, some real-life Grinch stole Troop 359’s trailer on Christmas Eve. A wheel lock didn’t thwart the thieves, whose “drag trail” could be followed all the way from the church parking lot to the highway, where the path ended.
“Either the brake gave way, or the tire popped,” the Scoutmaster wrote on Facebook. “No more drag marks at that point.”
Troop 359’s trailer was later recovered and the thief arrested — a rare positive ending to a trailer theft story.