Enthusiasts Collector Clasics: Hiding in plain sight

23:09  09 february  2018
23:09  09 february  2018 Source:   Driving.ca

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I got my car trailer back. It was stolen from behind a rental house in North Coquitlam where I had stored it for 15 years. Never a problem. Just drive it in out of sight from the road, unhook the chains and electrical connection, jack it up and away I would go.

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I use my trailer a lot for hauling classic cars, my garden tractor, anything big that needs to be moved and trash.

So you can imagine my shock on the first Saturday morning of January when I went to pick it up and there was only a dry patch of gravel where it had been sitting. I immediately thought I had left it somewhere else and, in a senior’s moment, simply forgot. Not that lucky.

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The thieves had broken into the garages on the property to steal what they could. The garage doors were unlocked. They kicked their way into a locked area of the garage to steal anything of value. Gone were my golf clubs, battery charger, metal cabinets and spare car engine with aluminum parts that could readily be sold for scrap. The lock in another storage garage was so easy to defeat that the thieves had simply stuck a screwdriver into the soft wooden door above the lock to slide the bolt back. In they went.

I surmise the thieves loaded everything they took into my trailer and made their getaway. People that work in the shop on the property assured me the trailer had been where it was always stored on Friday afternoon. So the theft occurred overnight.

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How careless of me to leave my trailer unlocked, unprotected and with the trailer hitch just inside the door. It was an open invitation for the thieves to put the receiver hitch into their vehicle, hook up the lights and take off.

All my tie down straps, spare tire, come-along winch and other necessary items for transporting cars and equipment had been left inside.

Things had changed dramatically on that street. The properties had been sold to developers for townhouses, owners and tenants had moved out and the thieves moved in. Many of the houses had been ransacked for everything from the wiring to the kitchen sink. Thieves had made off with siding, skylight, even garden sheds.

So what was I thinking to have left my trailer there?

Not reassuring were comments from friends who guessed openly that my very distinctive beige trailer with its artsy and bold horizontal bright and dark blue stripes would be repainted, renumbered and put back in service by the bad people who took it.

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I thought of all the alleyways and rural properties where it could be hidden away. I did what I could to recover it. I began looking up driveways and in backyards as I would drive by.

I posted photo ads on social media and sent a picture of the trailer to everyone I knew. STOLEN: HAVE YOU SEEN THIS TRAILER?

Of course, I immediately reported it to the RCMP and ICBC. Knowing it was fully insured was of little comfort. I needed my trailer back!

When I began to search for a new trailer, I learned a lot about security. A high-end used car trailer for sale in Maple Ridge had a big padlock on the tongue so the trailer couldn’t be dropped down on a trailer hitch ball. It also had a boot locked onto one wheel so it couldn’t be moved. The owner told the story about someone trying to steal his boat in the middle of the night right in front of his house. He immediately bought all the security devices he could to protect his equipment. All doors on his trailer featured strong locking devices and it was kept locked.

A visit to Meridian RV in Port Coquitlam revealed shelves filled with trailer anti-theft devices, including a California boot to lock a wheel and locks for trailer hitches and balls and entry doors. It made me wonder why I didn’t think of these over the decade-and-a-half I had owned my car trailer.

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I made calls on trailers all over British Columbia. Some were new. Some were used. Prices ranged from $10 to $20,000 plus tax. My trailer was insured for $7,000. This was going to cost me.

I was just about to pull the trigger on a three-year-old trailer in the Okanagan when I was driving down my own street in rural Maple Ridge when something parked up a driveway shrouded by trees caught my eye. I know that trailer!

It was Sunday afternoon at dusk and my trailer had been gone more than three weeks from property 30 minutes away. Was I seeing things? This is my own street! I quickly turned my truck around and drove by again. Definitely my trailer. No question.

I had often wondered who would live in that old green shack that looked like a settler’s cabin from more than a century ago. I thought it was uninhabitable but I sometimes saw a truck there and lights on. Now my trailer was parked beside the decrepit shack with an old grey Honda parked in front of it with lights on. I phoned the RCMP.

In the end, three RCMP cars showed with five officers and, after conferring with me, swooped into the driveway. There was a woman sitting in the car but no one in the house.

There was no doubt the trailer was mine and I was eventually allowed to tow it the distance of less than a kilometre to my house.

Neighbours drawn to the scene by the strong police presence told me they had seen a black GMC Envoy back the trailer in that morning. They described shady characters going in and out of the property over the previous two weeks. Police removed the license plate from the Honda and had it towed away. The woman was interviewed and, when police determined she wasn’t connected to the property, was allowed to leave. Four vehicles behind my trailer and the house including a camper truck, pickup truck and a van appeared to be stolen.

“This is much bigger than we expected,” one RCMP officer told me.

What a coincidence to find my trailer on my own road – one kilometre away. The thieves had almost delivered it to my property. Could it be that it was put there so I would see it? I couldn’t sleep that night thinking of all the other places my trailer could have been hidden away. And how fortunate I was to get it back.

But what was really nagging me was how careless I had been by enabling this theft. I had left my trailer unlocked with the trailer hitch and other equipment inside on insecure property.

That won’t happen again.

Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. aedwards@peakco.com

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