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Violent RV Theft Crime Wave

| Updated Jul 3, 2024

This week on the RV Podcast:

  • What’s going on with the recent violent RV theft crime wave? There have been two more dangerous incidents since last week’s deadly attack in Nebraska.
  • If you have a drone made by DJI, as many RVers do, the government wants to ban them because they think the Chinese could be using them to spy on us.
  • What to do when you empty your RV black tank but the sensor shows it is still full?
  • All this plus the RV News of the Week and your questions coming up in Episode #504 of the RV Podcast

You can watch the video version on our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel by clicking the player below.

If you prefer an audio-only podcast, you can hear us through your favorite podcast app or listen now through the player below.

Mike & Jen's truck woes

Good news!

After this was recorded and before it went live, we learned that our truck, an F-250 that we use to tow our fifth wheel, will be repaired in time.

The damage caused by putting a small amount of DEF in the diesel tank last January was not as severe as we feared. The repair will be costly but expected to be done by the end of the week, in plenty of time for our trip to the Canadian Maritimes later this month.


Violent RV Theft Crime Wave 1

Wendy Bowyer reports on the hot issues most talked about this past week on social media and our RV Lifestyle Community group.

In the RVLifestyle Community‘s Troubleshooting Space, Lynn wrote that her black tank sensor shows it is full right after she dumps it so she asks: What is going on and what is your personal solution? The group had many ideas.

Richard uses Dawn Platinum and said he no longer has an issue with sensors not working correctly. And Robert takes 1/4 cup Dawn, 10 gallons of water, puts it in the tank then drives 50 miles and dumps. He said it works great.

Randall doesn't dump until the black tanks are full, and then he uses lots of water. His family has found the water sloshing around in the tank when you drive helps and he also uses Happy Camper.

In the RVLifestyle Community's Boondocking Space, we asked: Can you share a valuable tip of something you did to make your off-the-grid camping experience appreciably easier or better?

Joyce collects shower water in a bucket – the water that collects waiting for the water to get warm – and uses that to flush the toilet at night saving water and noise from the toilet's pump. Since you can choose your own place to camp when boondocking Edward suggests parking in a spot where you can have a beautiful view of the morning sunrise. Dawn suggests investing in lithium batteries.

And Charlie has a two-man dome tent he sets up to protect his generator when it is not in use. And these are just a sampling of the ideas shared.

Then over on our RVLifestyle Facebook Group, Emily wrote, “Help! I need help on how to keep the cupboards closed while traveling.”

Help is what Emily asked for – and help is what she got! Baby locks for cupboards were a common suggestion as were bungee cords.

Dee uses hair ties, those kinds used for women's ponytails, with great success. Paula uses duct tape – that is definitely strong.

Others suggested using scrunchies, velcro straps and strong magnets.

And then there was a discussion about how RV cupboards do have safety locks in the handles so generally speaking,  if the roads are in decent shape this should be enough to keep the cupboards closed. But if the roads are in poor shape and you're dealing with a bumpy ride, often you need more to keep the cupboards closed. And let's face it, there are a lot of places in the U.S. where the road condition means a very bumpy ride!


Violent RV Theft Crime Wave 2

Last week, we reported about the horribly violent attack of a retired couple at a rest area along I-80 in Nebraska. A crazed man forced his way into their RV, brutally stabbed to death the 72-year-old man, and critically injured his 71-year-old wife before attempting to steal the Jeep they were towing with their RV. 

A 22 year old suspect was caught. He’s now in jail and the woman – now a widow – is slowly healing from knife wounds to her head and torso. 

But in the past week, there have been two more dangerous incidents involving RVers.

The most recent happened Saturday. It was also in Nebraska and also along I-80.

Here is the official report of the Nebraska State Patrol:

The incident began at approximately 1:00 p.m. Saturday, when the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a vehicle fire on Interstate 80 near Hershey. A witness reported that the driver of the vehicle was running away from the scene toward the Interstate Lakes area.

The man was then seen breaking into and stealing a pickup with a camper attached. He then ran over the owner of the pickup as he fled in the stolen vehicle. The owner of the pickup sustained serious, but what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.

Lincoln County deputies began a pursuit of the suspect as he fled eastbound on I-80. As the suspect vehicle passed the North Platte interchanges, troopers took over the pursuit. As the suspect fled eastbound it crossed the median and began driving at a high rate of speed in the westbound lanes of I-80.

Additional units worked to slow westbound traffic to avoid any collisions. The suspect nearly struck a westbound trooper and continued driving against traffic for several miles before exiting at the Brady interchange, at mile marker 199. At approximately 1:25 p.m., suspect parked the vehicle in a parking lot and fled on foot into a wooded area. Troopers and deputies arrived on scene immediately and established a perimeter. The SWAT Team was activated.

The North Platte Police Department and Dawson County Sheriff’s Office also responded to assist. Drones were used to search the area and the NSP Aviation Support Unit responded as well. Once troopers believed they had an approximate location the suspect, the SWAT Team began a closer search of the area, using a light armored vehicle.

A K9 was then able to track the suspect to a muddy area on the bank of a pond. The K9 was used to take the suspect into custody at 7:25 p.m.

The suspect, identified as Abraham Pacheco, 32, of Thornton, Colorado, has since been lodged in Lincoln County Jail on numerous charges. The investigation remains ongoing.

This thief ran over the owner of the pick-up truck and RV. The owner is hospitalized with serious injuries but is expected to recover.

That was Saturday.

A few days before, in Boulder, Colorado, there was another incident.

A man, woman and their dog were spending the night in their friend's truck-camper parked outside the friend’s apartment. But around 3 AM,  they woke up confused and startled when they realized their camper was moving.

They realized that while they slept, someone had broken into the truck the camper was attached to, taking them and their dog along for the ride. 

Can you imagine, they awakened and realized someone has stolen their truck and they are driving down the road? They called the police.

“The initial call was tearful and confused,” Boulder police reported.

This went on for some time until police, with the couple still on the phone, spotted the truck and officers tried to pull it over with the couple inside. However, after the officers turned on the sirens, police said the truck driver sped up. 

Police chased the driver until the vehicle reached a dead-end street and had no choice but to stop. Officials ordered the driver to exit the vehicle and told the couple it was safe to go outside.

The pair and their dog safely exited the vehicle after the intense incident. Police body camera footage shared by the department shows the moment the victims were rescued.

“Alright are you guys okay?” an officer said.

“Yes we are,” one of the victims replied.

“We’re incredibly thankful no one was injured in this terrifying situation, and they very much could have been,” the department said.

The suspect was arrested and booked on several charges including second-degree motor vehicle theft, two counts of reckless endangerment, vehicular eluding and carrying a concealed knife, according to the department.

He had previously been arrested for three other motor vehicle thefts and convicted for one of them. He was also charged with failure to appear for court on a previous theft case, the department said.

What a scary story. Fortunately, that one had a happy ending with no one getting hurt.

But what on earth is going on?

Three dangerous RV thefts in a little over a week’s time.

These three incidents are all different and unconnected but we have been hearing more and more in recent months about RVs being stolen.

A few years ago, a retired RV couple was boondocking along the beach near Corpus Christi Texas when they were murdered, buried in the sand and their killer stole their RV to take to Mexico, where he would apparently sell it. He was caught at the border trying to drive the stolen RV into Mexico.

In the most recent incidents, two of these happened along busy interstates… I-80 to be precise, one of the main east-west routes for RVers. The other happened on a city street in Colorado. 

What can be done to prevent these things? Without all the information, its hard to make generalizations. And there is no central database to check for stolen RVs.

But situational awareness is the most important thing… Be sure to lock the doors… always… and, as the couple in Boulder can attest, keep a cell phone on your person or nearby all the time.

I know many of us overnight at freeway rest areas. And we want to park on the edges, where there is not so much light. Maybe that’s not the best idea these days.

Statistically, we’d venture to say that campgrounds are probably the safest place to camp to avoid theft.

We don't want to discuss carrying a firearm for safety. That's your decision. 

But I will say this: RVs are just stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Insurance replaces stuff. Lives can't be replaced. 

But there are precautions.

Travel trailers are the most stolen of the RVs. All you need is a hitch with a ball receiver to hook it up and pull it away. Motorhomes are the next most stolen because, like cars, a thief just needs to start the engine. Same with truck campers.

Fifth wheels are more tricky because they need a specialized hitch for the king pin. 

So, knowing that, put a lock on the hitch for travel trailers and fifth wheels. Get a burglar alarm for motorhomes and truck campers.

And stay alert.

While we’re hearing more and more about RV thefts, sensational stories like those of the last week make us think the problem is more common than it really is.

We’ve been doing the RV Lifestyle for 12 years. We’ve had two thefts. One at a restaurant off Route 66 in Illinois. It happened in broad daylight while we were eating and our dog was in the locked RV. Police suspected the thieves used an electronic device of some sort to somehow open the locks. They stole computers and cameras and whatever they could grab. But insurance covered it.  

Once, in our driveway, someone got in our RV and took the television. Truthfully, I think I had forgotten to lock the door in that case.

In the first instance, there wasn't a thing we could have done to prevent theft while we were eating dinner. In the second, it wouldn't have happened if we had not been careless and left the RV unlocked,

Bottom line, you can’t escape crime. It happens. Not as often as some would have us think, but enough to make us think. Make us take precautions.

What do you think? Send us a note or use the comments below. 


Violent RV Theft Crime Wave 3

Record number of travelers expected to be on the road this July 4

AAA expects a record number of Americans to be traveling for their July 4th celebration, the majority by road.

About 70.9 million are traveling this week, up from 5.7 million in 2019, when the last record was set.

And 85.4 percent of those travelers are doing road trips

Mike and I have been camping for much of the past month so we decided to stay home this weekend. But if you are out there, we hope you are enjoying yourself! 

When it is time to come home, AAA recommends you do all you can to avoid being on the road between 10:30 am-2:30 pm Saturday, 2-8 pm Sunday or 1-5 pm Monday when all those record travelers are returning home.

US government seeks to ban popular Chinese-made DJI Drones for national security

Attention all DJI Drone owners: Your drone may be blasting your photographs, pictures and even facial recognition data to the Chinese government. And because of that, it may soon be banned by the US government.

The Countering CCP Drones Act passed the U.S. House last month, then passed through the Senate Armed Services Committee and is set to be debated in the US Senate soon.

Because Da Jiang Innovations (DJI Drones) is a Chinese-owned company, it must comply with demands from the Chinese government, which has triggered lawmakers to take action.

The US government is concerned DJI Drones could collect critical infrastructure and law enforcement data, GPS locations and photographs, and even facial recognition data, then share it with the Chinese government for espionage purposes.

DJI Drones are extremely popular and known for their quality, making up about 70 percent of the US drone market.

Many RVers bring drones with them on their RV adventures and drone flying has become a popular hobby. But DJI drones are also used by non-hobbyist for things like police work, search and rescues, and agricultural spraying.

DJI is fighting this bill, but there is a real chance it could pass. If you are thinking of purchasing a DJI drone soon, you may want to wait to see how this all shakes out. We'll be sure to let you know.

Ohio creates “selfie stations” in select state parks; launches competition

We know the selfie culture has penetrated seemingly every aspect of American society, but I was still surprised when I saw that select Ohio State Parks have opened designated “Selfie stations.”

These stations are designed to show people where to stand to take a selfie. They include a shelf where you can put your phone and set a timer, and they are located in 15 state parks and 3 preserves.

These stations are set against some of the parks most awesome landscapes, providing backgrounds of rolling hills and dense forests or tranquil lakes and cascading waterfalls. 

And to kick off the selfie stations, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has launched a contest. The first 50 people to email pictures of themselves at 10 or more selfie stations have a chance to win an Ohio State Parks passport.

I don't know. Call me old-fashioned, but do we really need to be told where to stand to snap a picture of a beautiful landscape? Can't we tell what's stunning ourselves? 

I guess the shelf for your phone may be helpful but I could also see traffic backups to stand at these designated spots. If any of you have seen these selfie stations would love to know what you think. 

For a list of the selfie stations, click here.


QUESTION: The toilet bowl in our RV no longer holds water. It’s made by Dometic. Does it need to be replaced? Brian

ANSWER: Not the toilet. Just the rubber seal at the bottom of the tank controls the water flow into the bowl. It’s called the flush bowl seal.

I just this past week had to replace mine and it was very simple. I ordered a new one from Amazon for around $20. What happens is debris gets between it and the round stopper that opens when you flush the toilet.

All you need is some latex gloves.

With the water off, push down the flush lever and reach into the owl and carefully lift the seal up and out. Be sure not to let it slip and fall into the black tank. Clean off that stopper with a paper towell. Put a little silicon grease or even Vaseline on the bottom of the new rubber seal and twist it down in place with the stopper closed.

It might take a couple of times until it properly seals. But if I can do this, anyone can. Easy to understand instructions come with the new seal.

Mike & Jen’s Storytime –  The Curse of Michigans UP

Violent RV Theft Crime Wave 4

This week… the curse of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – Black flies.

If you are in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in early July, you have the welts to prove it. This is prime bug season up there. Blood-sucking mosquitos are bad enough. 

But it’s the black flies that make the mosquito misery even worse: Black flies bite and rip off literal chunks of your flesh.

There are two kinds up there and I’ll be darned if we can tell them apart. Black flies and stable flies. They look the same to me. Black flies bite you. Stable flies eat you.

The locals say they come when a south wind blows them out of the woods to the Lake Superior shoreline. 

They aren’t so bad when there’s a strong onshore wind.

But from early June to the end of July, you’ll encounter them.

They will cover you. We did a video we called the Black Fly Dance that showed how Yoopers – that’s what they call those who live in the UP – are constantly jumping and swatting. Whatever you do when they are out…keep moving.

Here’s an excerpt from that video:

Once we bought every kind of bug and fly repellant, we could find to see what worked the best. Electronic gizmos that emitted sound waves and force fields. Sprays, lotions, and fly strips coated with a sticky substance to catch them.

None worked.

We love the UP. It's our favorite place. Just not in early summer.

Explore a hidden gem – Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Violent RV Theft Crime Wave 5

This ebook is a seven-stop guided exploration of the Michigan UP. We provide a suggested route and itinerary, links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, and the best spots to see along the way. Don’t plan your trip to the Upper Peninsula without it!

We're OVER 13,500 members in our NEW Community!

Violent RV Theft Crime Wave 6

We have a Space for all sorts of things you want to know as an RVer, including Boondocking, Travel Planning, Electrical, Plumbing, Traveling with Pets, Gear, and more.

You can join each Space individually and only see what's being discussed in just that Space. Or you can see everything in the main Feed.

You can watch livestreams that are focused on one Space or another – like we recently did for Internet on the Road!

It's a calm, well-organized, friendly space to meet other RVers who might be traveling near you!

Join us

Mike Wendland

Published on 2024-07-03

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

2 Responses to “Violent RV Theft Crime Wave”

July 03, 2024at5:59 pm, Beth Mannebach said:

This is in response to the RV violent crime story. We keep bear spray with us when we travel with our motor home (Montana is our home base and we have easy access to bear spray) – this is as strong a deterrent as we would care to use and it can travel with you across the Canadian border. We also try to keep one of us in the RV at all times when we stop at rest stops for bathroom breaks. I hope that this can help someone out!


July 05, 2024at8:08 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thanks for sharing, Beth! Team RV Lifestyle


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