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Friday, October 02, 2015

Avoiding Car Break-ins

Although law enforcement and Forest Service rangers do patrol for trailhead crime, there are simply too many trailheads in the Olympics and Cascades to cover effectively.  The best way to prevent trailhead crime is to be aware at the trailhead and eliminate potential for pay off. Some recommendations:

  • Strip your car clean before heading to the trailhead. If you don’t have this option, hide everything in your trunk or out-of sight before arriving at the trailhead.
  • When you arrive at the trailhead, be leery of any stranger who engages you in friendly conversation. If this is unavoidable, follow your gut instinct. If the encounter seemed out-of-place, hang around the trailhead and observe, or start your hike, then come back in a few minutes to check.



  • Although you should always be cautious, if you see someone out-of-place at a trailhead, take their picture, preferably with their license plate together. I have done this twice, and both times it sparked an angry response which just further confirmed my belief. Remember to be defensive and keep yourself safe first, if you choose to do this.
  • Never hide wallets, purses, or expensive electronics in your car. Take them with you. Take no chances with these valuables.
  • If you witness a car prowler in progress, do not approach them. This can quickly become a dangerous situation. Instead, observe the crime from a safe distance gathering all the information, and pictures, as possible.
  • If you are an avid hiker, consider getting a trailhead car. Any old beater makes a great trailhead car—the more worthless, the better. Strip it clean and leave the doors unlocked without worry. Take your oldest, beat-up vehicle to leave at the parking area. Or get a ride to and from the trailhead (better to pay someone for the ride then to pay lots of money for a broken window or lose money to stolen items). 

  • Another option is to look for alternative parking near to the trail and get a ride up or walk to the trailhead.   The BNSF staging area near Scenic parking, for example. 
  • Consider leaving the car unlocked to avoid windows being broken (though most safety sites advocate locking it). But with that said, if you do choose to leave it unlocked, leave NOTHING valuable in the car! Take ALL ID, loose change (conceal change under a rock at the trailhead if you forget to take it out at home), and take wallet, cell phone, IPOD, etc with you. Better yet, leave everything at home you can't carry with you in your backpack or day pack. Locking items in the trunk doesn't mean the thieves can't force the trunk open or break a window to get at it. 
  • Leave some unsavory items on the seat and / or back window to discourage thieves. Underwear. Dirty socks. Grungy clothes, etc.
  • Always report car break-ins to the police whether you plan to make an insurance claim or not. It helps them pinpoint crime patterns and unsecure trailheads.

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