Seven minutes is all it took for our RV to be burglarized, to lose $12,000 and counting worth of equipment – just about everything of value inside the motorhome except the dog.
Yes, just seven minutes.
That's all it took for the bad guys to come into our space and take our stuff.
We know it was only seven minutes, too, from our dash cam recording most of it.
But as Jennifer notes, what they physically took are only things. The stuff is just that – stuff.
And, yes, it isn't fun, but it is life and when things like this happen, you have two choices: bury your head in the sand or learn from it and move on.
So we move on.
We WILL continue with our trip out west along Route 66.
Please note: this RV burglary happened in 2015, but the lessons are timeless, and we have an Update at the end…
Jennifer and I will use this horrible experience to hopefully benefit you and talk about what – if anything – could have possibly been done differently.
Among other things, we hope you realize:
- How one piece of tech – my dash cam – may have recorded the thieves in action and end up providing a lead to crucial evidence to catch them. You should have one, too.
- How you should always be sure your doors are locked when leaving, but new tech used by the bad guys might make even that easy to bypass
- How you should prepare your personal computer in case of emergency/theft
- How the theft was able to happen, even with our dog still in the RV
- Why you need to check the coverage limits of your RV insurance policy for personal effects right NOW
- Why you should be aware of the communities in which you are stopping
Our RV was Burglarized in Illinois
It happened just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in Collinsville, Ill., when we stopped for dinner at about 6:15 p.m. at a restaurant in a busy shopping mall off Interstate-55. It was a pretty upscale mall, too, with lots of well-known stores and restaurants and traffic.
While we were inside eating, at least two thieves somehow gained entry to our Class B campervan and, in about seven minutes, took more than $12,000 worth of electronic gear from our rig – including all of the video and still cameras and most of the mobile podcasting studio gear I had taken for the trip.
Police blamed gangs from nearby East St. Louis. A guy towing a U-Haul who also stopped for dinner and parked a few spaces down was also hit. They smashed a window out to gain entry to his vehicle and also took a computer.
It turns out, though, that my dash cam may have captured an image of one of the thieves who looked to be casing our RV. A “person of interest” can be clearly seen on the dash cam peering in the front.
Under his left arm he is carrying what may be burglary tools. It looks like a hammer wrapped up in a towel and some sort of device.
Seconds before he walked out of sight, someone entered from the side and was joined by an accomplice. I've given the evidence over to the police. They would like to identify and talk to the person seen here.
Alas, because the dash cam pointed outward, we did not get an image of the thieves who were inside. The dash cam did record some of their audio. They can be heard talking nicely to Tai, who, knowing him, was probably delighted by the company.
The inside was totally ransacked. Every cupboard was opened and all the contents strewn about. You can hear the thieves delighting over the laptops. “What's this,” one of them asked, followed by the sounds of things falling to the floor.
I can't begin to describe how incredibly sad it is to hear these lowlifes talking so casually about the things they were finding and stealing. They laughed and sounded totally at ease. In Jennifer's tote bag were some personal items, things of absolutely no value or meaning to the thieves, but things that were meaningful to her.
Both of our laptops, an iPad, chargers, my professional video camera, my high-end Canon 5D Mark III DSLR camera with a memory card full of Route 66 photos, my multichannel podcast mixing board, a Rand McNally GPS, a portable printer, and all sorts of cables and stuff like a backpack, Jennifer's tote bag and even my shower soap, shampoo and deodorant were taken.
When we came back out from the restaurant about 7:03 PM, the thieves were gone and our dog, Tai, looked stressed. He knew stuff wasn't supposed to be tossed all over the RV. Fortunately, the thieves did not hurt him. As I mentioned, they can be heard talking soothingly to him as they stole our stuff.
After police took our report, I went to a nearby Best Buy and bought a replacement computer. I stayed up all night, first configuring it and then, account by account, changing passwords on my email accounts, my credit card companies, my bank and other personally sensitive information.
Then we called our accountant and bank to alert them to be on the alert for suspicious activity.
Fortunately, all my computer info was encrypted and backed up with strong security measures. But it's better to take no chances, hence an all-nighter. I am too old to pull an all-nighter.
I also am glad I have a Mac. I used Apple's”Find My Mac” service to first see if I could locate the stolen laptop. It didn't show but I clicked the “Notify me if found” box, which, as soon as it goes online, will send me a map of its location. I also send an erase command which will wipe the hard disk and lock the machine so it can not be used. This is a great service and well worth the cost of buying Apple.
Tips: Lessons Learned from the RV Break-In
Police told us they suspected that thieves are using technology to transmit radio signals that mimic the unlock signals transmitted by key fobs.
If so, that would explain why there was no sign of forced entry. Because as we left the vehicle, as normal, Jennifer asked if I had locked it. I distinctly remember walking to the side passenger window, pushing the lock button on the key fob, and seeing and hearing the inside locks depress.
Almost as frustrating an experience of being robbed is the runaround I'm now getting from my insurance carrier. The claims investigator who called me back yesterday said because there was no forced entry evidence, they probably won't pay.
The company I used specializes in insuring recreational vehicles. But if they deny my claim, they are going to literally have a very unhappy camper on their case.
The rationale suggested by the claims agent is simply unacceptable. These thieves illegally entered our home. The RV is our home. They violated that home and stole from us. Now, the insurance agency is hinting it will do the same thing by not paying.
We'll see what happens as the claim works its way up but I urge all of you to carefully check your policies.
Inventory the items you take with you and make sure you are adequately covered by a reputable agency.
UPDATE: After a long hassle, the insurance company denied my claim. Their reason was that I said I used the RV for recreational purposes. Which, as even a casual reading of this blog shows, is true. But, since I also use the blog to make money, they held that the RV's purpose is for business and, thus, not covered by a recreational policy.
Now, I insure all by RVs for business use.
Even with all of this – where to next?
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