Every so often the topic of security comes up on the VW Campers forum on Facebook. What do people do to prevent theft? How do you keep your most prized possession from getting nicked? There’s always a laundry list of answers that runs the gamut from people putting up pictures of their manual shifters and saying “no millennial will know how to steal this [laugh face emoticon]” to the person who simply says “Smith and Wesson.” I’m going to do a quick run through of safety/prevention/recovery options before saying you should get SpotTrace. That’s the main takeaway—SpotTrace is invaluable.
Let’s start with the manual shifter. Without being too chuffed, I have to point out that I’m a millennial. I drive stick. I have since I was nineteen. I’m not unusual. Millennials are quickly approaching middle age, so we’re not the young, naive demographic many boomers make us out to be. Learning stick for a millennial is as easy as downloading an email attachment is for a boomer. (Whoa! Shots fired!)
Speaking of which—your Smith and Wesson or whatever brand of firearm you think will prevent the bus from being stolen. I’m not exactly sure how this one works to be honest because I don’t have a firearm (more on that in an upcoming blog post). Does the bus owner keep the gun inside the bus? Or are they carrying the gun with them? In the former case, the stolen bus now comes with a bonus accessory that would be a hot commodity for resale, not to mention a major headache for the registered owner if it is later used in a crime. But let’s say the bus/gun owner has the firearm on his person. The gun really only does some good if the thief is caught in the act. But then what? You shoot them? Besides the damage to the vehicle (blood or bullet holes), it seems a little extreme. Usually yelling, “hey” at someone in the act of stealing is enough to make them run. Or, turn on your cell phone camera and make them famous. One police officer we know assured us the best anti-theft we could have is our pit bull smiling at someone through the window.
At any rate with a gun, you’d have to first not be in your vehicle, then interrupt the criminal who is in the process of stealing the vehicle before they make off with it. Practiced car thieves can get in and drive away in under two minutes, so the goal is to slow them down and make it hard for them to get away unnoticed. In that case, I would recommend installing a hidden kill switch and/or a fuel shut off switch. It’s not foolproof because most bus theft happens using a flatbed tow truck.
Far and away, the most common successful bus thefts are a somewhat official tow truck cruising into a parking lot with a guy wearing bright colored reflective clothes and turning on his yellow lights. It’s pretty brilliant, really. Your steering wheel club won’t matter and your pedal lock won’t matter. Even a millennial without manual transmission knowledge or a boomer who can’t operate their phone could do it. A friend of mine works at a car museum where million dollar, one-of-a-kind automobiles are housed. The best way to lift one of those precious babies? A clipboard and the self-assured look that you’re supposed to be picking up this car right here for Dr. So-and-so and man he’s gonna be mad if I call and tell him that—what’s your name?—is holding up the works. So, yeah, a bunch of bystanders (some of them maybe even armed and ready with an itchy trigger finger or camera recording finger!) will watch casually as the thief loads your dream vehicle on the flatbed and totes it away into oblivion.
Or actually a Wal-Mart. This is where SpotTrace (or other GPS trackers) into play. Before a chop shop or someone dealing in stolen vehicles takes possession of a hot car, they want to make sure they will not get caught. In order to assure themselves that the car is not being tracked, they will do a pinch-n-park. They steal the vehicle on the flatbed and then drive it some distance—maybe 50 or so miles—and leave it in a crowded or abandoned lot to sit for a couple of days. If the car has a hidden GPS, the owners or police will come for it. If it’s still there, off to the chop shop or some other nefarious locale.
SpotTrace is great because it is small, inexpensive and highly customizable. You buy the unit for $50-100 depending on if you can find a sale. (I did.) Then, you choose a plan that is about one trip to McDonald’s/Starbucks per month (sorry to both millennials and boomers—these places are overpriced for what they offer). You can then log on to the SpotTrace website and decide how often you want the signal to broadcast. When I had to park the bus on the street of a large city, I set it to directly text me the second vibration was sensed. How cool is that?
I know it’s not as comical as ageist jokes or as machismo as acting like you’re ready to cosplay Chuck Bronson, but it is a great and practical way to protect your investment. In the meantime, you should also download the VanAlert app (if you’re a boomer, your millennial friends can help you with that). VanAlert allows you to post stolen vehicle notices and call for a rescue squad if you’re in need.