Crime in RV Trailers: What It Looks Like and How to Stay Safe

RV park by a river

Crime in RV trailers is a serious concern that many people have, especially people who are new to the camping lifestyle. This is understandable when you consider that the evening news is nearly a full hour of the sad stories of victims of crime. Is there a similar problem in the countless campgrounds across the country?

Campground Crime

If you have been trying to find statistics about the crime rate in campgrounds, you may have a difficult time finding information. The reason is simple: Crime in RVs has historically been very rare. However, with the rise in illegal drug use, crime has moved into RV Parks.

Criminal Activity Has Evolved

In February 2019, Chuck Woodbury, editor of RV Travel theorized that RV park crime was up due to the changing demographics. He wrote that many RVers transitioned from tourist RVers to full time and seasonal RVers. Along with that observation, he guestimated that 20% of the RV Parks are not areas tourist travelers would frequent. Instead, he surmised these were parks where people who are barely getting by took up permanent residence. Chuck compares these parks to low-income communities and have related problems and subsequently, similar crimes.

Campground Versus RV Park Crime

In the past, the most you may have witnessed in an RV park was a domestic disturbance or possibly a fellow camper who had a bit too much to drink and became slightly out of hand. In fact, it was rare you'd fall victim to a serious crime in a campground. This was good news for anyone who worried about the safety of RV parks. However, that isn't necessarily true today. It is still important to be careful and be smart while you're camping. Camping sites are more isolated than an RV park and therefore, more vulnerable to a thief and especially to a predator.

National Parks for RV Trailers

Some RVers feel that camping in a national park may have more danger than camping at a KOA or other type of RV park or family-owned campground. This can be true since criminals often feel that an isolated forest offers the perfect seclusion for a methamphetamine lab, great resource for poachers or an ideal hunting ground for a predator seeking their next human victim. A 2005 report stated that National Park Service officers are 12 times more likely to be hurt in a crime than FBI agents. Of course, the FBI agents don't spend as much time around the general public as a park ranger.

Crime Statistics for National Parks

The 2018 NPS (National Park Service) Investigative Services Branch (ISB) report included all types of crimes within the national park system. Many RVers frequent national parks.

  • Crimes Against Persons: 57%
  • Property Crimes: 19%
  • Crimes Against Society: 10%
  • Natural Resource Crimes: 6%
  • Drug Crimes: 3%
  • Cultural Resource Crimes: 3%
  • Other: 2%

Reviewing National Park Crime Statistics

Crimes statistics shouldn't deter you from enjoying the nation's beautiful National Parks! They should help you be more alert when vacationing. Things happen, but it is still highly unlikely that you'll run into problems.

Safety Tips to Ward Off RV Crime

The tips you follow may depend on what kind of crime you're trying to prevent. General safety tips are also helpful for protection of property and personal safety.

RV parked in isolated forest area

RV Theft

Here are a few tips to help you avoid theft in RV trailers. Keep these tips in mind when you take your next trip:

  • Lock up your RV whenever you leave, even if it is only for a short time. This includes locking windows and any outside storage spaces.
  • Make sure you have insurance and that you practice locking up since insurance theft for vehicles left unlocked.
  • Don't park your RV in an isolated and dark area.
  • Avoid boondocking alone.
  • Leave a light on inside your RV whenever you're out at night.
  • Leave a radio or TV tuned on when you're out.
  • Pull the shades and keep your area picked up. Eliminate temptations to reduce the chances of theft in your camping trailer. You don't want your new hiking gear or fancy camping cookware to disappear.
  • Camp around other campers. You've heard the expression that there is safety in numbers. This applies to camping very well. Fellow campers tend to watch out for each other, especially when you take time to get to know your camping neighbors.


Vandalism is mostly a byproduct of theft, unless you're unlucky enough to be the target of mischief and mayhem. This form of attack is often more invasive than theft since it is personal and intentional. You can't lock everything down, but the fewer things you leave out in the open, the less likely you'll be victimized.

Violent Crime

While there are no guarantees that you can prevent being a victim of a violent crime, there are precautions you can take to less the chances. You can protect yourself before you need to protect yourself by putting in some safeguards and practices.

  • Avoid being alone in isolated areas. While roaming the RV park, always go with another person and walk in well-lit areas only.
  • One RVer writes to keep a 5' to 6' perimeter around you and suspect anyone who ventures into your circle. This will keep you alert and prevent an attacker from taking advantage of you.
  • If you notice someone watching you, it's advised to make eye contact with the person, so they know you've recognized them and are aware they are watching you. This can often deter a predator looking to catch an unsuspecting victim offguard.

Additional Tips for Safety

Additionally, thieves tend to avoid heavily populated areas. If you need to leave your campsite for an extended period of time, it's a good idea to let your neighbors know, as well as the ranger or campground/RV park host.

  • Invest in a deadbolt on the RV door(s). Replace deadbolt screws with 3" long screw to fortify the lock and your door.
  • Don't leave valuables inside your RV when you're away. Take them with you or leave them at home.
  • Consider a safe for valuables. Better yet, don't bring any valuables. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. It is much safer to use credit cards or traveler's checks.
  • Wheel locks or wheel boots are an added defense against RV theft.
  • Use a trailer hitch lock to prevent theft.
  • If you don't have a GPS tracking system on your RV, it pays to invest in one in case your RV is stolen. A quick recovery can mean less loss of what's inside.

How to Protect Yourself

In addition to following safety tips, you can protect yourself in other ways.

Gun for Protection

There are two schools of thought about having a firearm at a camping or RV park. Some people believe it provides a false sense of security as well as presenting a risk of an accidental shooting. The other side of the argument is self-protection. If you choose to arm yourself, use shotgun instead of a handgun. You don't need as accurate an aim with a shotgun as you do with a pistol. Before bringing a gun to a park, confirm state laws and park rules and regulations.

Security Alarm System

You can install a security alarm system and motion detector(s) to provide added security in your RV. Camper Report lists five security systems for RVs. These include security cameras starting around $150 to entire systems for around $700. The choices provide wireless basic motion activated and a video camera to security and hazard sensors and several outside cameras.

Understand the Rules of the Campground or RV Park

Select parks that are secure. You can avoid selecting a campground or RV Park that is vulnerable to crime by understanding the rules. A facility that has few or no rules won't provide you with the discipline needed to ensure safety.

RV park rules on sign
  • Some RV parks require guest passes for non-renters to visit you inside the park. There is typically a curfew when guests must leave the park. Some parks charge a few of each person visiting you.
  • Some RV parks don't allow alcohol on the premises.
  • Most RV parks have a noise ordinance and a noise curfew.
  • Make sure you understand the rules for pets.

Ask Questions Before Making Reservations

When choosing a campground or RV park for your camping trip, ask questions about the facility before making reservations. Things to ask about include:

  • Does the park have surveillance cameras in place?
  • Is the front gate secure or can people run in and out as they please--even if they are not camping there?
  • Does the park have a regular patrol to check on the safety of the campers?

Tips for Selecting the Ideal RV Park

A few quick tips can help you make the right RV park selection. A few minutes spent upfront before making plans can help you avoid places you don't want to reserve.

  • Ask friends who also enjoy RV camping what parks they recommend.
  • You may want to avoid parks in big, metro areas that have higher crime rates.
  • Camp franchises like KOA or Jellystone are great choices. Not only are they safe, family parks, but they feature lots of planned activities. You can make new friends that can last a lifetime.

Objective Look at Crime in RV Parks

Don't let the fear of crime in RV trailers keep you from a great vacation. Camping is safe and a great way to get away from it all-especially crime.

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Crime in RV Trailers: What It Looks Like and How to Stay Safe