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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Robert Mosurinjohn

Blame low income? I think you could at least TRY to substantiate such an outright prejudicial claim.

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 to ma1e bad loans by the government so those that previously would not qualify. Daaa…. banking greed supported by a Congress whose received political donations from those that took nonrisk in defauilts as the government becomes the insurer for the loans……..& when these loans are”bundled” and sold on the international market the risk spreads. Banks make a profit fro m two sources. The selling of securities & as a first loan provider to those the banks KNOW are not capable of repaying but will be jeopardized in the future when these loans are packaged (bundled) sold and used as security by larger international institutions as investment collateral opportunities. Remember…..it takes only one’bad apple’ to ruin a bundle and “red line” loaning, passed by Congress, as a condition of allowing banks to sell securities, was a political endeavor parlayed by members of Congress and a president to move money into the pockets large political donors as Congress responded to the lobbyists of these banks . The Frank Dodd Act has not…did not remove banks from selling securities. It does not approach the impact of the Glass Steagle which was a result of the 1929 crash. It separates commercial banking from investment banking. Vote term limits. 6 consecutive years, whether senator or representative is long enough. Force DNC & RNC to go back to the grassroots of the constituency for candidates. Moral of this….know the background, know the history of the situation into which decisions take your future. Stay armed in knowledge and weapons. Time is the only thing that each o f us receives equally and at that point we EACH become responsible for our decisions, I do not pity the circumstances of others that live with the opportunities provided within America. We each have two lives. The one we are born with and the otherwise make. Everyone is an individual. Each if us is unique just like the other person. So, give each one of us the responsibility foroutt own individual decisions. You make the best decision for what you know and inspires you. Status quo or move on……..

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 TT that was used only 1 year and in perfect, like new condition. My bride and I lived in it for about 4 months in ’93 after I retired from the Air Force while looking for a home. We used it.occasionally over the next 10 years and then sold it. Moral of the story is sometimes in life, you do what you have to do to survive.

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

“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 pieces is to start the conversation.
Good job everyone, this conversation sure has a diverse array of opinions! Gotta love living in a country in which free speech holds high value.

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 always been a great melting pot- the popup trailer is welcomed next to the half-million dollar motorhome. It has been a place where classism has been put aside in favor of friendliness and helpfulness.

We have stayed at $150 and $20 a night places, places that are hard to get into depending on the year of a motorhome and those that are hard to get into because they are almost full with residents. High income or low income, I can always judge the experience by the people we meet.

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 order to travel.
Yes, there are some who are less fortunate than myself and bit of a problem at times, but I have grown to enjoy the lifestyle too much to let it bother me. I look forward to traveling in the Summer and staying someplace warm in the Winters. My only regret is not buying a bigger RV. My advice is to look out for each other for what it is worth.

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

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 any CG. We always travel with a dog. They have always been kept on a leash and never permit anyone to pet them. I have Viet Nam Veteran license plates and NRA decals. Those things alone should tell all but the most stupid to find a softer target. I travel the 36 states my CWP is recognized and do carry.
Yes things have changed and not always better. Be vigilant, not paranoid. There is still many great places to visit and people to meet.

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

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

Bill

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.

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 out! If you ask folks whether crime has gotten worse, most people think it has — in fact, it’s less than a 1/4 of a few decades ago. Are personal guns a problem? In fact, ownership and CCW exploded during that plummet in crime (connection? Ahem!?!). Great news, right? You won’t hear it ON the news, though, because that doesn’t gain viewers. Reporting a rise in crime where there isn’t one gains readers/viewers. Stories on “Poison Broccoli!!!!” sell better than “Eat your healthy carrots.” So, what you’ll see on the news is simple sensationalism. You’ll hear about EVERY murder across the country, but not the 2 million times someone prevents one each year. So, we “know” crime is up when crime is WAY down overall. We “know” that “lots” of people do bad things, instead of the 300 million who didn’t commit a significant crime this year.

The other statistical trick is reporting N instead of N/P — there are more RVs on the road than decades ago, so of course there will be more crimes per capita that occur in an RV. In China, more muggers ride bicycles – so ban bikes right now? Obviously, the question should be whether RVs have more crime PER CAPITA, not in direct number.

Finally, there may (?) be an “attractive nuisance” or soft-spot factor to this question. Assuming that RVs are now up 1o 100X the value of decades ago (some are!) and often driven by older folks (some are…), then you have a high value with a perceived low defensive capability. Personally, I wouldn’t mess with the older folks who took boxing in school, fought wars up close, and worked all their lives. Grandpa is NOT a soft target, but there may be that perception. I don’t have elderly vs. younger camper statistics, either…

RVers may have to cross our patchwork mess of state firearms laws, so it’s theoretically “less likely” they will be armed to defend themselves compared to brick-and-mortar folks. Interestingly, the RVT survey says almost 1/2 of readers DO carry hardware, which would be high for the general populace if interpreted as carry on person vs. in the RV, or low if interpreted as “at home” (which then supports the soft target view). Weekend tent-camper or TT/5er or fulltime mega-bus? I don’t have those filtered stats, maybe RVT new staff can search them?

Ultimately, I don’t know whether “crime is up in RVs”… but I don’t think we have the hard data to make that claim convincingly. It might be interesting to see a full permutation survey of young/middle/senior ages, cheap/midrange/premium RVs, fulltime vs recreational, etc… …cross-multiplied with petty/major/acute attacks. Who, where, experiences what? No ONE factor there says much in a vacuum. Then compare that to the general populace. Simmer before serving prematurely.

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 in return. Baby steps. Happy Trails.

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.

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 penny to their name who know Shakespeare from front to back cover to cover who have philosophical ideas beyond any middle or high income bracket person. Actually, for some who are in a so called blessed high money bracket , I find them more ignorant than most. They don’t read, they don’t care and all they do is spend. And of course that also does not mean that ALL of those blessed with a lot of money live like that. Most of my friends who have a lot are frugal, sensible, happy, and give. Oh yes, I have had conversations with the homeless. It would knock your socks off in how many are highly educated. And…..they like their life styles too. Don’t ask…I don’t understand that either.

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 the grounds. I did carry a 3 D cell MagLight flashlight to swing if need be but only had to threaten use of it one time. Problems in a campground or RV park are the fault of the owner/manager not caring about trouble makers and turning nice parks into trailer parks.

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 because of less opportunity, less intelligence, moral failings or just plain bad luck. Most of us are more lucky than smart.

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 job in New Jersey. Housing was out of reach (early 80s). After multiple attempts at trying to find decent house I too turned to travel trailer. I lived in it for 3 years whiling relocating every 6 months so as to stay within law ( which prohibited living in travel trailer) and including a major job relocation to Tennessee. I have many fond memories of the wonderful, helpful people in the parks (Koas, state parks, etc). A large number were like me.. dealing with housing issues, short term job assignments, etc. Some were construction families, engineers, etc. These were educated, sophisticated and helpful folks. But admittedly a subculture. Another fastforward. Am now retired, conventional “stick” house, all paid off. Myself and hubby now with free time have purchased an RV, not to winter in Florida but to get back out into the world. My point being, appearances do not tell the whole story. It is a complex world and mobility can make all the difference in the world. Rvs and trailers add an additional option for folks who may not or can not fit into a “conventional” life style of a permanent, fixed home. Some are indeed poor and marginal and some are crooks but certainly not all, despite appearances.
… Here is to meeting up on the road with you all.?

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 of places to see and things to do out there before it turns into a dog eat dog world.Get out there and enjoy it…while you can.