An LAPD Detective’s Recommendation to Combat Trailer Theft & Reduce Recovery Time of Stolen Trailers
Guest Blogger: Detective Randy Blancq (LAPD), Taskforce for Regional Auto Theft Prevention (TRAP)
Trailer theft is challenging.
Unlike vehicles (most of the time), trailers are simply towed away. They don’t have ignition immobilizers, they don’t have alarms and GPS (unless owner applied), and you cannot put a club on the steering wheel.
You cannot really prevent a trailer from getting stolen like you can a vehicle. You can try to prevent it from hitching or prevent the wheels from moving, or –like any other thing you want to keep –secure it in a garage or behind a locked fence. A determined thief will find ways around most of these prevention methods. However, through a few methods, the trailer industry may be able to increase the likelihood of recovering a stolen trailer more quickly. Here’s how:
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that dealers can do aside from keeping good records for the trailers you sell.
- Archive them electronically. They are more secure and will keep longer.
- Add one or more unique dealer-applied numbers that cross-reference to the VIN priorto selling.
- If you have a mechanism to do so, offer a service that allows buyers to addowner-applied numbers (known only to them) or keep the number on file at your dealership.
The most important step that dealers can take to curtail theft is educating customersonthe steps they can take to make sure their trailers are secure; this includes:
- Storing the trailer in a secure area
- Adding hitch locks
- Finding a way to immobilize the wheels when not in use
- Adding a tracking device
- Adding inconspicuous owner-applied identification markings to the trailer. Mention these markings to law enforcementif you ever report your trailer stolen.
- Photographing all four sides and inside, including all ID stickers, trailer damage and anything owner-applied. If numbers are removed, a trailer can be identified by unique points of identification.
- Waiting to load valuables in the trailer until they’re ready to travel. If not possible, using multiple methods to secure what is inside.
For trailer manufacturers, there are a few more tangible steps, outlined below.
Add permanent, confidential secondary markings in multiple locations on the trailers.
Vehicles can be identified by numerous parts on the vehicle (engine, transmission, airbags, frames, etc.) in addition to secondary confidential numbers. Trailers generally don’t have the extra parts with which to help ID the trailer. So, marking frames, panels, top rails, wheel boxes or other parts of the assemblyis recommended. The more placesa trailer is marked, the more likely it is that law enforcement can find thenumbers and ID the trailer. Companies that apply only the minimally required Federal Certification Label risk having customers lose trailers because the label is easily removed. Many stamp the VIN or a derivative of the VIN on the tongue. This is helpful, but –if someone is going to remove the label –they are likely to grind off the tongue number because it is easy to find. Having a hidden number is better. Additionally, if you do have a strong, secondary number, odds are higher that police will be able to cross-reference the VIN or a derivative of the VIN.
Utilize axle stickers.
Most people overlook the axle sticker, possibly because thieves know it usually does not contain any useful information beyond the shipment address. One idea is for manufacturers to write the VIN, the last eight digitsof the VINor a unique number that cross-references back to the VIN on the axle sticker.
Be more detailed when writing by hand.
For those that write numbers on interior panels in grease pen, they need to write legibly and firmly. If authorities cannot read the number, or if they confuse the digits, they cannot confidently identify the trailer. Additionally, writing the last eight digits of the VIN is much more helpful than writing the last five or six. It narrows down the possible VINs, making it easier for law enforcement to identify. Further, if you are not going to write the full VIN under the panel, include the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) along with the last 8 of the VIN. The first three digits of the VIN make up the WMI and it provides manufacturer information to authorities. Many trailers look alike, especially if thieves remove all stickers from the exterior of the trailer. Knowing the WMI and the last 8 of the VIN will allow authorities to identify the trailer more easily.
At the end of the day, trailer identification takes effort by all parties involved. However, if done in a detailed manner, recovery times can speed up dramatically for your customers. If customers know that you are looking out for their investment, they may be more likely to buy your products.
About TRAP The Taskforce for Regional Auto theft Prevention (TRAP) is is Los Angeles County's regional, multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency task force that investigates, prosecutes and deters vehicle theft and vehicle fraud on a coordinated and cooperative basis. It is authorized by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and is administered through the Countywide Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee with cooperation from the Los Angeles County Chiefs of Police. T.R.A.P. informs the public about common auto theft schemes and recent investigations. T.R.A.P. has been highly successful in combating vehicle theft and vehicle fraud by focusing on organized rings and illegal business operations.
Guest posts and comments represent the diversity of opinion within the light to medium-duty trailer industry. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the North American Trailer Dealers Association who shall not be held liable for any inaccuracies presented.
This material is made available for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice or your professional judgment. You should review applicable laws in your jurisdiction and consult experienced counsel for legal advice. successful in combating vehicle theft and vehicle fraud by focusing on organized rings and illegal business operations.