The beginning of the story from the New Hampshire Union Leader pretty much says it all:
James and Michelle Butler set out on an adventure in summer 2018, traveling the country in a camper, but on Friday it was confirmed they were murdered in Texas last month at a beach campsite near Corpus Christi.
The story, which has now been in the headlines everywhere it seems for the last couple of weeks, hits home for us and many of our RV Lifestyle fellow travelers, as indicated by the discussion on the RV Lifestyle Group Facebook page. There is understandably a lot of sadness and a lot of anger.
Of course, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their friends and family.
With confirmation from authorities that the couple was RVing, I thought it would be a good time to provide our RV Lifestyle fellow travelers with some tips for safe travels while RVing, courtesy of a blog from KOA called “Avoiding Crime.” It starts with the blog's first rule: ” the fastest way to become a statistic of a criminal act – from stolen firewood to something much worse – is to think it can’t happen to you.”
Here are some other tips:
At a Campground
- Get in the habit of locking your rig every time you depart. In short, don't let appearances fool you. It takes but a matter of seconds to lock up and dissuade those with nefarious intent. This RV lock-down should include securing exterior storage compartments and windows as well.
- Close blinds and shades to dissuade “casing the joint.”
- Set up a neighbor watch by getting to know the people next to you, who are more likely to look after someone they know than complete strangers.
- Consider a few devices to protect your vehicle and valuables while you’re away. Although it won’t win you any friends when it goes off accidentally in the night, a vehicle alarm system is a useful defense when you’re away. Motion-detecting lights, also known as “scare lights,” should scatter would-be intruders (not to mention critters). Safes are fairly common options on higher-end RVs, serving as an ideal spot for jewelry and traveler’s checks. If you’re worried about RV theft, invest in a trailer hitch lock or more pricey Lojack-type recovery apparatus. Otherwise, a hungry looking dog might do you just as good.
- The choice of the RV park itself is also important. Question management about security.Nightly patrols? Is the park well lit? How hard is it for non-guests to come and go? Opt for a visible campsite in the heart of the park if safety is utmost on your mind. Travel the grounds in pairs and stay in lighted areas. RV parks in urban settings may be more prone to crime than smaller campgrounds tucked away in the boonies. But don’t let that be an excuse for letting your guard down.
- If it’s a quick power nap you seek, always favor busier locales, such as travel plazas, truck stops, or active parking lots. Yes, it may be harder to sleep in areas with greater commotion, but the traffic, bright lights, and steady activity reduces your chances of becoming a potential target. Pulling off to the side of the road, a vacated rest stop, or that cozy-looking enclave in the forest up your risks substantially.
- Especially when off the beaten path, never open the door unless there’s someone wearing a badge on the other side. Pull the shades, lock the rig up tight, and try to stay within earshot of civilization. Your faithful rottweiler certainly earns her keep on dark nights when you’re far off the beaten path. Your trusty beagle? Well, not so much.
On the Road
- Avoid the bad parts of town. Lose that wide-eyed touristy look and stay alert to your surroundings. Don’t flash the cash or valuables, which only put a bullseye on your head for would-be thieves. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are the way to go when on the road.
- Vehicle trouble can lead to all sorts of problems. Remember the saying, “The best offense is a good defense?” Well, it works here too. The best way to circumvent a night stranded on the side of the road – leaving you and your family vulnerable – is to keep your RV in peak working condition, inspect it regularly, keep gas tanks full, and call for back-up (again, cell phone and roadside assistance) early and often. Stay inside until help arrives.
- Drive strategically. The best response to a person with road rage is to not get into that situation in the first place. Some folks feel that your tailgating, erratic maneuvers, and aggressive driving merits a response (or vice versa), which is how these things usually get started. Diffuse the situation by letting ornery drivers pass; don’t respond and escalate matters. It’s not worth it. If the problem persists, notify the police.