The Business of Work Camping: Theft in the campground

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By Sam Suva

For the most part, the campgrounds and resorts we stayed at were safe, and almost no major incidents of theft were reported. I say “major,” although any theft is really difficult to have to endure. In our tenure, we have had fishing poles, personal items from campsites and golf carts stolen from the campgrounds where we worked.

Of course, campgrounds have had theft of company funds as well. These types of thefts can easily reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. In each case, staff, managers and owners were alerted and a full accounting of the items were disclosed. In some cases, the police were informed.

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How does a work camper handle theft? Is it theft from the campground or from guests? Are the item(s) of significant value? Is the information from the victim, or is it secondhand?

Primarily, staff are the first step in working through the process after theft. Staff need to remain professional, attentive, responsive and hospitable during this issue. The guest or staff member reporting will most likely be upset, and rightly so. Staff sympathizes with the report and works to obtain relevant information, then makes the appropriate contacts and supports the guest.

“Just the facts, Ma’am.” As staff, we actively listen for the information about the incident through any emotions, speculation and gossip. We do NOT take this issue for granted. We do NOT jump to conclusions. We do NOT challenge whomever may be indicated as the possible suspect.

We listen in order to direct the victim to the proper resources. If it is major, we direct them to contact the police, their insurance company and the owner of the items stolen, in the event that the items were not the property of the person making the claim. If staff are asked to contact the owner of potentially stolen items, the manager needs to be informed and they will proceed with contact.

Campground staff are NOT the police. We do NOT investigate beyond making sure that the items are not simply misplaced or have been moved. If it is an armload of firewood or a small-ticket item that is carried in the campground store, we can contact the manager when appropriate and ask whether we can simply replace it. I have had campers come up to me and claim wheel chocks, charcoal starter fluid and ratchet straps have been stolen. I usually keep spares – I have found it is a better camping experience for the guest to offer to replace these items.

Theft is an unfortunate reality in our world – we can do little to prevent a determined person from stealing our property. In an upcoming article we will discuss how to minimize our exposure to theft while camping.

Have you experienced theft in a campground or resort? While we certainly hope not, we would be interested to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

See you down the road,

Sam

Sam Suva and his wife are work campers. They began work camping more than 10 years ago and have spent a lot of time working as they traveled. In this new weekly feature, they will share their experiences with you, with an emphasis on how to incorporate work camping into a full time RV lifestyle.

Read more articles about Work Camping.

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Bob Godfrey

A few years back while staying at Wickham Park in Melbourne, Fl. (a county park) although we had our bicycles chained to the picnic table and went off to visit friends over night in a different city, upon return our bicycles had been stripped of wheels and seats. I had only run the chain through the frames but now when I chain them up I run a cable through each wheel, frame and the table so that they’ll have to work much harder to get anything. This park has a large homeless population and I found parts of our bikes… Read more »

Sam

Thanks for your comments Bob. Several parks we worked at changed their tent traffic policy because they were simply more trouble in those situations. College kids, or young people drinking and making noise till all hours of the night and yes, theft and vandalism. Tent camping at campgrounds is becoming a thing of the past because of the issues it creates. A park that tries to give back to the community needs to make sure they are also protecting all their customers as well!

Gene Bjerke

We travel in a Class B, which means that if we want to visit local attractitions we need to take the RV. For a number of years, when we left camp we simply dropped our equipment (water, electric, cable). Then one long weekend while we were working an off-site event, we stayed later one evening and left early as usual the next day. When we got back to the campground, all our gear was gone. When we reported it to the office, they said that one of the neighbors said as they checked out that we had abandoned our stuff.… Read more »

Sam

Thanks Gene, an expensive lesson but you handled it well! Taking equipment from another site or even that the staff allowed it is untenable. We have a 30 day lost and found. If staff finds something or someone brings in a lost item, we hold it for 30 days. If it is still unclaimed we consider it lost.

Andrea Elkins

2.5 years living full-time on the road (almost all in private campgrounds) and nothing was stolen until we stayed at an urban park near Kansas City this summer. Overnight, two thieves walked off with our bicycles, right from under the nose of our fifth wheel. We’re now more careful about locking things up.

Sam

Thanks for you comments, Andrea. With so many neighbors it’s easy to think that our stuff is safe, everyone around us is on vacation, right? Still, there is that small percentage that makes us store and lock up our things.

Karen Willis

The one time, several years ago, we had quite a lot of tools stolen from out tow vehicle. Our dogs were barking, but we didn’t go out. We called law enforcement – they told us the next time we heard people messing around our site to go out and shoot them. Not sure if this is a good reaction, but it would prevent those particular thieves from doing it again.

Sam

Hmm, it may solve the immediate problem, but it also may have some unintended side effects. I hate you had to go through that Karen, it seems crimes of opportunity raise their ugly head even in the most pleasant places. Thanks for your comments!

Sam

Kevin Richey

While not having any physical item stolen, we have had our camping peace & quiet STOLEN from us by a group of party types in a state park campground playing extremely loud hard rock music from large speakers in the evening that lasted up until quiet time starts @ 10 PM, when it abruptly ceased.

The park manager’s RV apparently had no one around to complain to, as we knocked but got no person to respond. Since, then we have boondocked almost exclusively to avoid this occurring again.

Sam

Ugh! Any noise that overwhelms a neighbor should not allowed at ANY time, except for campground events. If a camper cannot sit in his own campsite and converse because of any noise, save a waterfall or a thunderstorm, that noise needs to be stopped. Building a deck, a patio or gazebo aside… but even that should not be done during peak hours.

Thanks for the feedback Kevin.

Robbie

Our solution to theft is to stay away from campgrounds. In 14 years of boondocking full time, we have never had anything stolen. We do take common sense precautions.

Sam

You would have some interesting solutions for stowing your gear I bet. Send me an email and we’ll talk about it if you are interested. Thanks for the feedback Robbie,

Sam

Mike Sherman

Like Don Wright, I too have been fortunate, no losses yet. We have camped for many years in busy campgrounds and remote areas, and host often. Seems like theft from campsites are rare indeed.

Sam

Rare indeed! In all our years, these are isolated and usually caused by family or close friends who feel entitled. Campgrounds closer to populated areas tend to have more organized, albeit rare, theft. We don’t camp there if we can help it.

Donald N Wright

I have been fortunate, my RV has not been stolen, nothing at my campsite has been stolen or borrowed. When I am away I tend to run a chain through chairs and table so a thief would have to take everything at once. I try not to leave temptations out in view where they might easily walk away. I prefer campgrounds that have attendants or keypads that open gates and someone is always walking their dog.

Sam

We too have been fortunate and we have done the same, running a chain or cable through personal items. It is a good precaution. I will write about ways to protect campsite possessions in a future article, I would appreciate your feedback Donald!