Murders and other crime in the RV park

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By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR

I just received my daily headlines from Google listing news articles about RVing posted in the last 24 hours. One, especially, caught my attention: A 66-year-old woman was found dead, lying face down in her RV at Grandma’s Grove RV Park in the Fort Myers, Florida area. The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office is treating it as a homicide.

Hardly a day passes that I do not see a similar story. If I think back to about 20 years ago, when there were far fewer RVers on the road, and far fewer permanent residents in RV parks, I almost never heard of such crimes.

I can remember responding to readers who would ask me, “Chuck, is it safe to go RVing?” And I would reply, “I almost never hear of a violent crime in an RV park or campground.” I actually remember marveling at how safe RV parks were. I never, ever thought about crime when staying in an RV park.


Yes, I’m sure there was bad stuff going on, but I believe the numbers were minuscule compared to today.

I think what has happened is that most RV parks back then were occupied by travelers — tourists would stay a night or two, maybe a week, and then move on. Today, hundreds if not thousands of RV parks are occupied by full-time or seasonal residents. A good many stay in RV parks because they cannot afford to buy or even rent a traditional home. I saw this all the time in my two years of full-timing.

Typical scene in an RV park today, long-term residents.

THERE ARE ABOUT 13,000 RV parks in American today. Based on what I observed in 2017 and 2018 when I was a full-timer, I’d guess that at least 20 percent are dumps where most RV travelers would not want to stay. They are not RV parks in the sense of “recreation.” They are trailer parks, often with low monthly rates, where people live, and the facilities are often poorly maintained.

When you put that many people together, many of whom are just getting by, it’s a far different crowd than RV tourists. They have the same problems as others who live in low-income communities, including a high incidence of crime.

There have been huge changes in the last decade in how people use their RVs and where they stay. The landscape is dramatically different than when many of us started RVing decades ago. I’m trying to make sense of it. I think maybe if I can get time, a book is in order.

 


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Panscalejustice
Panscalejustice

When you speak of those that are victims of 2008, you speak of those that were given loans that were involved in “red lining” default created by the repeal, in 1994 (?] of the Glass Steagle Act from 1932. Congresss and Clinton did this. This allowed banks to enter the lucrative selling of securities and compete with stockbrokers on a world class scale. But they (thebanks) also had toloan money to “red liners”…..people who previously who didn’t qualify for loans. Outcome of 2008 was forecasted by Senator Mczcain and other republicans as early as 2004. Think on this! Banks encouraged… Read more »

Wayne Caldwell
Wayne Caldwell

In early 1987 I went through a divorce while stationed in Texas. Times were so tight that I couldn’t even afford an unfurnished apartment. I talked with my credit union and was able to get a new 26′ Skyliner Nomad Weekender. It was an efficiency apartment on 4 wheels and did what I needed for the next year while I parked it in a small seniors’ mobile home park. I remarried a year later and received orders for Italy so I parked it in a friend’s back yard. When I returned in ’92, I had a then 5 year old… Read more »

steve
steve

Your article also explains the “not more than 10 years old” rule we bump into these days.
It is also the reason I decided not to develop an RV park on a piece of well-situated ground that I have; I don’t want to be a slumplord.

Lizzy
Lizzy

“I think” is an important part of any of Chuck’s articles. Just as Comments are written in “I think” mode, since few are willing to look up hard stats on the issues. “I think” or Opinion articles illustrate important moments/times in each writers experience. Therefore, to hold the opinionated authors feet to the fire for point of view or lack of hard stats misses the point. Yes, disagree with the opinion, state your opinion on the subject, even take the time to elucidate the statistics and write a report o the subject. One of the most important goals of opinion… Read more »

Nanci
Nanci

We have been RVing for the last 30 years and full-timing for the last four. We feel just as safe as we did when we started. We locked our doors at home and we lock them now. What is defining the “20% dumps”? No pool? No hot tub or clubhouse? The trucks that take off early in the morning to earn a living for their family? The workers that are forced to find work far from home? Residents that are forced to live in an RV by economics? One of the things I love about RVing is that campgrounds have… Read more »

David Miars

Hello everyone, and great feedback. I live in an RV Park that has both sections, one for overnight and a section for seasonal stays. I live in the seasonal part of the RV park. I had a small RV already when I lost my job and decided to move to another city where I thought I would live in my RV temporarily. I got another job right away, but continued to live in my RV as I enjoy camping and spending my vacations in Colorado. I have come to embrace the RV lifestyle and look forward to retiring soon in… Read more »

Cherie
Cherie

I have been rving for 20 years by myself. I haven’t noticed crime in RV parks any worse than in the cities and towns… crime is rampant everywhere.. which also has to do with the rise in drug use and homelessness there’s not enough police force to control that crime

Dan J

Not enough police equals……be prepared to take care of yourselves.

Captn John
Captn John

We spend 6 – 7 months on the road now. We have had an RV since the 70s. It has only been about the last 10- years we spend more time picking our CGs. There is a higher percentage of RV Ghettos now. For the last month we have been in a CG with a lot of working people due to Hurricane Michael. These people are not a problem. I keep a list of places we have stayed with comments. I try to stay in places suggested by traveling friends. Next I hit recent online reviews. Never a problem in… Read more »

Boats Dee
Boats Dee

I’m with you brother!

Rose magistro
Rose magistro

I totally agree. I have been on the road over 2 years camphosting in State parks and travel in between gigs. There are some really shady parks and we won’t stay in them.

Bill Austin
Bill Austin

Good topic. I agree with your logic. I’d like to see more on this.

Bill

Anthony Joel Vinson
Anthony Joel Vinson

It boils down to a couple of simple truths….mind your own business and just be nice. Fortunately for us in the South, we have stand your ground laws and strong 2A rights. We also use our senses and if a place seems sketchy, it probably is. We’ve been friendly with alot of people and they’ve returned it in kind. We’ve never seen anything really bad in the places we’ve stayed and hopefully it stays that way.

Vic
Vic

I spend three to five months in the south and i see more crime and killings then when I spent 12 months in the north. Stand your ground in my view creates just as many problems as it solves. As far as strong 2A rights, you have the right to bear arms in our country. But weak laws on who can obtain a gun do not make our country safe and that is definitely something the NRA or you in the south seem to care about. When I have to start carrying a gun to feel safe, that will be… Read more »

Dry Creek
Dry Creek

Seems to me the criminals don’t pay very much attention to laws on firearms ownership (or possession), be they “weak”, or strong (as you seem to prefer). But a right is a right. While you may dream up many “sensible rules” to make legal exercise of anyone’s 2A rights more difficult, they won’t be obeyed by those who choose to break the law anyway. Based on your statement, I take it you muct be from up north? Don’t they tend to have stronger restrictions on 2A rights? Are they crime free? I didn’t think so. Now, what I have found… Read more »

Bob
Bob

Wow, some of these social issues can go sideways in a hurry. Lighten up, this is supposed to be “recreational “.

theresa
theresa

we don’t carry when traveling in our RV, we are armed at home though – we’ve experienced several breakins/thefts in our garage, so we fenced in the entire yard and yes, if somebody uninvited cares to pass that barrier, then they will find out we are armed, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be warned to vacate the premises.. we do give warning in the South (mostly)

Wolfe
Wolfe

“Stand your ground” means you have the right to be unmolested, and to defend yourself with neccessary force to stay that way. It doesn’t give you license to shoot people on sight or anything else anti-freedom folks claim. If you’re in my bedroom at 3AM uninvited, you’re not reading the meter and I can ask/push/shove/shoot in proportion to your resistance to leaving. As far as having 2A rights, EVERYONE should have the right to defend themselves unless they forfeit that by being PROVEN insane/irresponsible. That would be a “right” — granted first and denied second. Instead, we have capricious and… Read more »

20 Year Security Instructor
20 Year Security Instructor

The gist of this article seems to be that “annoying working folks are attacking the wealthy retirees.” *Gag* There is a small truth in stating that lower income folks generally have higher crime rates, and unfortunately, the last few decades of socialism have forced increasing numbers of folks into having to live in their RV/MH. BUT, I haven’t seen any credible statistics specifically for RV and/or trailer parks (they are supposed to be different things). What I HAVE seen is plenty of statistics for crime in general. The problem in the greater US isn’t crime but media coverage. Hear me… Read more »

richard
richard

Good Answer.

Bob
Bob

Thank you. I have friends that are “married” to network news sensationalism, and think I’m crazy for taking the “risk” to travel so much. They seem to live in fear to the point they restrict their own options.

Peter
Peter

The first step to ” uniting ” The United States of America is for everyone to start being kind to one another. Too many people are too quick to judge, blame , accuse and find fault with others, usually without very much information. Before we start condemning others, maybe we should listen and try to learn something. America can never be the greatest country in the world until politics, racism, bigotry and hate are replaced with kindness. I challenge everyone who reads this to perform an act of kindness to a stranger this week, without any expectation of getting anything… Read more »

Bob Godfrey
Bob Godfrey

All I can say is that we had our chained up bicycles stripped by a couple of very ignorant homeless (we found out who they were later) types @ Wickham Park in Melbourne, Fl. while we left for 2 days. I state ignorant because they didn’t even know how to disconnect the brakes to remove the tires so they let the air out of them. I later found one of the wheels in a section of the park where there was a preponderance of homeless. There is still today a large group that lives there most of the time.

Lois
Lois

Unfortunately this could have happened wether the perpetrators were homeless or not. Criminality has very little to do with socio-economic status in the majority of cases. It has to do with morality of an individual. I have known upper crust people with a child who was incorrigible and have known people who were in a lower socioeconomic status who were themselves and their offspring perfectly wonderful and honorable people. It is not a true conclusion to think that crime is caused by economic status alone. Please think before you comment and perhaps look at the many statistics available on this… Read more »

Sharon B
Sharon B

Andy I don’t think that the article isolates only low income people as being low lifes. I for one am living on a low income bracket. I am 71 and just don’t want to work hard anymore and want to get into my hobbies and catch up on reading. My life style is far from low, however, my mind, my hobbies are rich in interest. On that note, yes there are real dirt bags out there who have never experienced any good in life resulting in a limited angry life style. And yes there are those who don’t have a… Read more »

Don
Don

My wife and I owned a RV/campground park from 1996-2006. This time period was just the beginning of seasonal campers (in Minnesota). We had a split of around 25% seasonal and 75% nightly campers, only 3 summer resident contractors. Contractors and seasonal campers were not the problem–the weekend camper and the bottles of booze were the problem. I patrolled the campground on a golf cart between 10:00 to 2:00 AM or so on the weekends making sure there was no trouble and if there was (twice in 10 years) I called the Sheriff’s office requesting help in escorting campers off… Read more »

Andy

Interesting discussion, but I’m struck by the overall amount of generalizing among many responders. Few things in life are all one way or the other. Most notable, in that regard, is the willingness to categorize low-income people as responsible for their own misery, which undoubtedly is true in some cases–and just as undoubtedly is quite wrong-headed in others. Congratulations to those who have worked hard, saved and been prudent in managing their finances: you deserve whatever comfort you have. But that does not give you the moral stature to look down your nose at those who are barely scraping by… Read more »

Bob p
Bob p

Reading your comment reminded me of a story in my life involving a brother-in-law. He made the statement about how “lucky” I was to have a good paying job, I looked at him and said I was not lucky to have my job. I told him I had also dropped out out high school just like him but the difference was I didn’t stay in that status. I joined the Marines, got my GED, learned about life and how to work hard for the things I wanted in life, and served my country and became a veteran which gave me… Read more »

Terry Wilson

Its not bad luck it is drugs an alcholics

Lois
Lois

Sometimes Terry but not the majority of the time.

Pat Cleveland
Pat Cleveland

Interesting discussion, particularly of olden times. Here is another perspective. My father was a heavy construction worker (power-plants, refineries, missle silos) in the 40s-70s. This meant his job took him all over the US. When I and my sister joined the family (50s) many places would not rent short term to familes with young children. My father turned to a travel trailer, which I still have memories of. Eventually we moved into a fixed home and dad came home on weekends when he could. Fast forward. I was newly divorced, no cash reserves but an advanced degree and a new… Read more »

Booneyrat
Booneyrat

This is an excellent article and many of the comments are spot on.Having worked in the oilfield for many years and traveled around the country with the jobs,I have seen much of what is spoken here,and unfortunately it is true.Good old American greed has caused many of the problems in modern society and like a cancer,it is spreading too fast.I suppose us “old folks” are lucky we got to experience the “good old days”,and like Graybyrd said,the top tier wealthy are calling the shots anymore,especially in the RV industry.Look no farther than the Camping World fiasco.Folks..there are still a lot… Read more »

Mark
Mark

AM brother!!!!!

john a arata
john a arata

There should be some sort of list of rv parks where 10% of less are seasonal or live there year round.Then we have a heads up to stay away from these parks,because its what most of us dont want

Jeff
Jeff

One example of finding out these figures is using places Like Good Sams Campground search function. There are others out there. Good Sams gives you information about the Park with all the amenities. Like Number of Spaces and Spaces Available. For instance, if you look at a particular park and it says it has 100 spaces, but only 50 are available, you pretty much know they have allot of full timers or permanent parties staying there. These are parks I avoid, even though it might be a nice looking park. And there are many smaller parks, where there are only… Read more »

john a arata
john a arata

Thank you I didnt realize about spaces available numbers on the listings

Friz
Friz

Chuck, if one cannot tell the difference between an RV park and a Trailer Park (TP) they would probably be comfortable in a TP. I believe you are trying to develop a story where one does not exist, apples and oranges. I recently read a post in one of the RV forums about crime in RV (not TP) parks. There had to be at least 10 pages of responses. The great majority responded they had never been the victim of crime in a RV Park. I could number on one hand those who wrote about petty theft. Not one wrote… Read more »

Harold Bagdonas

My wife and I have been RV’ing since 1972. Starting with a popup trailer and two small daughters. Drove from Delaware to California. No problems finding a clean friendly RV park, and back then there were very few parks along the freeways. We did the same trip in 1978 with a pick-up slide in over cab camper. The only problem on that trip was a tornado in Kansas that wanted everyone on the road to be upside down or attempted to turn the RV into an airplane. We still made it safely although a little shaken up. Retired from the… Read more »

Lois
Lois

Once again I am appalled at the perception that because some people have less resources then some others they are more likely to commit crimes. Being poor is not automatically related to commission of a crime such as theft. I would suggest you look at the park you are thinking of renting space in online and read the reviews. Assumptions hold no water in our ever changing world.

Captn John
Captn John

Not “automatically” but more likely. Some out of necessity to feed a family or drug addiction.

David Howard
David Howard

I’m pretty new to RV travel, having bought our first travel trailer just 4 years ago. My wife and I were excited at the prospect of being able to travel with our dog, sleep in our own bed each night, and maybe most importantly, not have to eat in restaurants three meals a day. My wife is still glad we decided to go this route, but I must admit that I am not so enthusiastic, and mostly for the reasons you mention in this column. Not only have we found that when we are traveling it is often difficult to… Read more »

Bill
Bill

Sorry to learn that you are not experiencing joy in your traveling. I’d like to offer a few suggestions about resources and definitely second the “read between the lines” about spaces available vs total. We generally start with Good Sam/Trailer Life or Passport directories, looking for a high number of stars, then go online to find reviews of the parks that interest us. Use aerial views on maps to check neighbor hoods or site locations. Only once in 6 years have we been disappointed in the park being less than our expectations based on our research. It was rated 6.… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff

To Graybyrd: All of what you say is 100 percent True. My take on allot of why RV Parks have become total dumps and VERY Unsafe places to stay is a Period of Time 2008 thru 2016. One of the worst periods in American History! Being that I am NOT a Politically Correct (PC) person, I’ll leave it at that! Most people can figure that out. Case in point in this article: We have friends from Colorado staying at our house in their 5th wheel, since there are NO GOOD RV parks near us. The ones that are around us,… Read more »

Booneyrat
Booneyrat

On the contrary 2008-2016 was NOT one of the worst times in American History.I suspect you are a Fox News addict.

Walt
Walt

I suppose if one is a CNN addict, now would be the worst time in American History?

Graybyrd

You wrote: “The landscape is dramatically different than when many of us started RVing decades ago. I’m trying to make sense of it.” Some years ago I drove long-haul truck thru 47 states (never got into Maine). Many of those trips (600,000 miles) were on “blue” highways. I saw a rural America that was boarded up, unpainted, abandoned, and showing serious decline. Factories shut down, jobs disappeared, and small town businesses withered and died. In that time, the so-called ‘Middle Class’ has suffered and most pundits call it all but vanished. Working-class wages have stagnated for at least three decades.… Read more »

Bill
Bill

Wow, thanks for the “60 Minutes” monologue. There is still a greater majority of us out here that are “middle class” and doing quite well. We move to where gainful employment is to raise a family a pursue the best life we can for us and our families. We avoid falling into the trappings of the “poor me” attitude and have fun with family RV, even on the modest of budgets. We avoid those dumpy trailer parks simply because they serve no purpose, other than, to reflect poorly on society, a society of which consists of folks who don’t want… Read more »

Popsider
Popsider

Actually, you are wrong. There is a decline in the number of those doing “quite well”. You just live in your bubble and don’t know it / see it. You avoid dumpy trailer parks so you have no idea what caused the people living there to be in that situation. Your attitude, that they only have themselves to blame, helps perpetuate the system that undermines 90% of the population.

DJ
DJ

Poor me I’m another victim living in the best country in the world for opportunity. Why do you think millions are coming here risking everything. Quit your belly aching!!

St
St

Thank you!
It is the best country on earth bar none.
When the goverment tells people they need help they quit trying to help themselves. If you don’t belive that just look at the city’s where they have the most problems.

Tommy Molnar
Tommy Molnar

Sorry Popsider, but I agree with Bill. I was a truck driver most of my life (and not for big money union companies either). My wife and I saved and saved and saved. You know, spent less than we made . . . We are ‘comfortably’ retired now. We don’t take world cruises, stay at big buck RV parks, eat out, or any of the other expensive stuff the ‘rich’ do. We enjoy our RV – no, I’d say we LOVE our RV and spend as much time in it as possible. As Bill says, “You don’t have to have… Read more »

Judy Howard

Yes Tommy and Bill I’m with you guys. The political atmosphere will change when those who are complaining go back to the basics. , “spend less than you make” and work hard and save. I’m a full time Rver and though I don’t have a flush budget, I am comfortable. I worked 10and 12 hr days as a single Parent. I am debt free because I did without many things because I understood that social security was ONLY A SUPPLEMENT and never intended to be an amount to live on. The trailer parks have always existed. I lived in a… Read more »

Lois
Lois

PERFECT!