Nine tips for preventing troop trailer theft

Imagine this: Your troop is ready to depart for a big campout. All the Scouts and adult volunteers have arrived at the church on time, and the weather is perfect.

But something’s missing: your troop trailer.

Oh, and hundreds or even thousands of dollars in gear inside.

That nightmare scenario turned into a reality for North Ridgeville, Ohio, Troop 153 when its trailer and gear were stolen this month. Thankfully, a local company agreed to pay for the nearly $3,000 in supplies lost in that theft.

But your troop may not be so lucky. That’s why you should take steps now to safeguard your unit’s trailer and its contents.

Acts of theft don’t get much lower than stealing from a Cub Scout pack, Boy Scout troop, Varsity team, or Venturing crew. But it happens all the time.

Yesterday, I showed you some of my favorite troop trailers. Today, with the help of some of your fellow Scouters on Facebook, here are some ways to ward off potential thieves:

  1. Purchase a wheel lock. Phillip Moore, insurance and risk management specialist at the national BSA headquarters, recommends checking with a boat dealership to buy a device like the ones police officers use on illegally parked cars. “The wheel lock is a visible deterrent and does not allow the trailer to be moved,” Moore says.
  2. Block the doors. Moore also suggests parking your trailer so that its rear doors butt up against a wall or some other permanent structure. Combining that with a wheel lock will make it much tougher for a thief, he says.
  3. Don’t store any gear inside. It may not be practical for all troops, but Jason P.’s unit keeps all of its gear at a separate location. If thieves discover the trailer is empty, they may leave it alone.
  4. Paint the top of your trailer with large identifying information. This way, “if it is stolen it can be identified from the air, where most of those who would steal it would not think to look,” says Kenneth K.
  5. Think before you park. Rather than parking the trailer a church lot that’s empty most nights, many Scouters said their trailer lives at the home of an adult leader. It’s “just like real estate,” says Eric C. “Location, location, location.”
  6. Make friends in high places. If you don’t want to or can’t park at a Scouter’s home or at your meeting site, ask your local police department if they’ll let you store your trailer there. That’s what Mike L. did. “As far as I know, that’s a pretty good spot,” he says. “I think everyone should consider it!”
  7. Get insured. “Nothing is 100 percent safe,” Ken K. reminds us. So insure your trailer and its contents from theft or damage. It might be money well spent.
  8. Go incognito. A cool design for your trailer can be an important recruiting tool and instill a sense of pride for your troop. But Cindy P. says those markings also might make it a target. “Our trailer has no troop identifying markings on the outside,” she says.
  9. Lock it down. You can never have too many locks, suggests Ron S. “When we built our troop shed and pad behind our charter organization, a heavy chain was cemented into the foundation. So, besides being locked to the pad, the trailer doors are secured with heavy duty discus locks and the hitch with a coupler lock.”
Have any other tips? Share them by leaving a comment below. Of course, there’s one more way to make sure your trailer isn’t stolen. “We don’t use a trailer,” says Aaron D. “Issue resolved.”

29 thoughts on “Nine tips for preventing troop trailer theft

  1. Ours is kept within a fenced and locked commercial storage facility. Our chartered organization splits the cost. Gear is kept in a locked storage unit much of the time. While it’s still accessible to many people, entry to the facility is tracked and under video surveillance.

  2. Just for added security, I took a “ball” from a hitch and cut the threaded part off. I then place it into the trailer’s receiver and lock it in so that a thief cannot pull up with an undersize ball or shaft and hook-up to the trailer and drive away. Inexpensive way to add security.

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  4. when i was in…all our gear was locked inside our troop room at the church inside a storage closet. kinda hard to steal things when they are locked in a church.

  5. We just make our trailer look like junk such as bad paint job, some rust, and we deflate the tires when we leave it so it looks like the tires are junk, when we leave for a trip we just inflate them up. So far its worked for about 4 years

    • There are actually a number of cyclists who use this idea for their commuter bikes. They give faux rust paint jobs, put mis-matches tires on them, and it general keep it cruddy looking. All they care about is that is works well, not how it looks. The cycle groups who have tried this have had zero stolen bikes. LOL

  6. As opposed to leaving it plain like discussed in the article I personally think the more highly decorated it is the less likely they are to steal it. A highly decorated trailer is going to be much easier for anyone looking for it to identify if it is stolen. There are so many plain colored ones being pulled around it would be very hard to identify which one was stolen at a quick glance. I certainly do like the idea of painting identification on the roof.

    • We’ve been having this discussion in our troop. I agree that an unmarked trailer is more likely to be stolen.

      I think Cindy P. was suggesting the contents would be more at risk (people assume there’s scout gear inside) but without markings the whole trailer is likely to be stolen.

    • Just remember that those fancy wraps peel right off. You could “undecorate” most of these fancy trailers in under 30 minutes by yourself! Paint is better, just less fancy. But the roof painting is a great idea.

  7. My Troop’s trailer is parked at the local national guard armory. It has a spot among the motor pool in a fenced yard with full military surveillance. A lot of towns have a national guard post and many would be happy to store your trailer.

  8. Many trailers that are stolen are stored by backing them into a parking space, making it easy to hook up for travel. The thieves come in with a flat-bed truck with a winch and simply pull it onto the truck and take off. The hitch/ball locks won’t do anything to prevent this. Park it so someone can’t easily pull it onto a flat-bed with a winch, and use wheel locks/boots. We keep our gear in our trailer because we don’t have anywhere else to store it – this makes the trailer so heavy it is almost impossible to move without putting ballast (adults) in the back, behind the axel. No, we don’t travel with anyone in the trailer – this is just to swing it around to hook it up to a vehicle.

  9. I agree with Mark. When our trailer was stolen the police officer said that thieves love plain white, (or whatever color), trailers because they are easier to resell. A trailer with lots of large BSA type logo’s on the side is hard to hide, and hard to cover up the logos.

    Another thing is to get reciever lock. They fit up inside the reciever and would be EXTREMELY difficult to cut off. When we lost one of our super heavy duty locks one time I had a guy at work come out with a battery operated grinder and he removed the lock in 15 seconds or less. He said he wouldn’t have been able to do that with the receiver lock.

    • We had a receiver lock on ours..when we went to use our trailer all that was there was the lock. It appears they used a sledge hammer and a couple of hits and it was free and are trailer was gone also it was one the most expensive Master locks that gave us a false sense of security.

      • Yeah, most locks only slow thieves down. That’s why no one solution is enough. But lock the wheels, the hitch, park it nose-in and chain it to a tree, that might be enough. But for all that work, I’d rather get donations to park it inside a storage unit.

  10. Run an Internet search on “wheel chock lock” – chock locks look to cost about a fourth of disc wheel locks. Don’t know if the prices are the cheapest but you can score free shipping – there’s a limited number and I bet they sell out soon. The main vendor looks to be Trimax and you can see their various options at

  11. I agree with every idea on your list with the exception of one the deal with insurance after checking inho insurance in Missouri I have found it’s next to impossible to get considering that as a non profit organization we can’t personally own there for insure a real estate so you need to convince your charter organization to put on thier insurance plan as to transpertation the trailer is covered by tow vechicle but that does not cover contents also if trailer is off property of insurer it may not be covered. All the other ideas are great but this one may cause some issues.
    Your in scouting
    Jerome Boda
    Scoutmaster T463

  12. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want very distinctive markings on the outside of the trailer that very easily identified it. It seems like that would make it much harder for someone who stole it to disguise it. If it’s just plain colored with no identification markings looks like every other trailer on the street, if it looks distinctive it stands out.

    Putting markings on the roof does sound like a great idea!

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  14. Cub scout pack 370, islip, ny…When I was cm, our trailer was stolen! I had it publicized soo much that everyone was looking for it. I had dignitaries involved as well as the police chief. This was a high profile case!!! In the end and a week later the trailer was found by a citizen with minor stuff stolen!!
    We had lots of donations to help us as well as another trailer…as sad of a thing this was. It also brought our pack together!!

    • Most people who steal trailers want them for lawn equipment!! So If the trailer is marked up with identified insignia the thief’s would have to remove it and paint it…our trailer was defaced a little…and If they see scout trailer on the side. The stuff inside is not worth much on the market

  15. No. 8 is wrong…BOY SCOUT TROOP on the side makes it more identifiable if stolen. Plus since most happen at night, a sharp eyed police officer might ask why a Boy Scout Trailer is moving at 3am. Or the neighbors might ask why the Scouts are parked at so and so’s lot? He has no kids….

  16. We don’t have this problem. Each scout in our troop, owns his own gear. No insurance needed, no extra gas needed for whoever pulls it, no wheel locks, or well-lit areas or paint jobs. If his pack gets stolen, it’s easy enough to turn around and replace that in a day.

  17. Pingback: What’s inside counts: Send me interior photos or plans of your troop trailer « Bryan on Scouting

  18. Pingback: Ask the Expert: How should Scouters handle insurance for troop trailers? « Bryan on Scouting

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