There have been a large number of trailer thefts in the Low Country lately. Here are several common risk factors and prevention measures for owners to consider.
Often the thieves are simply stealing them and selling them to pawnshops. Some are sold unwittingly to law-abiding citizens; others are sold directly to unscrupulous lawn/construction businesses, often with tolls still on them. There are many more avenues including using them for mobile meth-labs and use by terrorists, but most are simpler crimes.
The most common risk factor is that these trailers are almost always plain white or black, usually completely unmarked. Most commonly taken are the small enclosed utility trailers, sometimes flat bed or open car trailers, less often full size enclosed car trailers, possibly due to the registration/tag requirements.
The stolen trailers are usually unattended at a jobsite or on business premises after hours.
There are several theft prevention measures available from tongue locks to chaining wheels, even a wheel lock available from makers of The CLUB (~$42), but a major deterrent would be marking the trailer in an obvious manner.
- Have a steel fabricator weld your company name or phone number onto an obvious part of the frame, it is relatively inexpensive to do (~$30-$75) and very time consuming to remove.
- Mark trailers with special paint-jobs, decals, or lettering. Many owners are reluctant to so as not to attract thieves to the contents. Sometimes owners trade out trailers often and want to make them easier to re-sell. These are valid concerns so the circumstances should be considered, but by making these obvious markings, it makes it much more likely a thief will be found out while still in possession, less likely he could sell it, and consequently serve as a major deterrent to taking it in the first place. If you are considering decals, use 3M Scotchite reflective decals like used on emergency vehicles. These decals are extremely difficult to remove, come off in little tiny chips, and will always leave a residual ghost image.
- Spray-paint your name/phone number on the INSIDE in big, bright fluorescent paint. A buyer would see it and it would be hard to paint over because often fluorescents bleed through other paints.
- Obtain state license plates for the trailer. This may cost a few dollars but a thief would recognize he would be at higher risk of being discovered due to paperwork involved in trying to sell it and the fact that its serial/VIN numbers are definitely on record (imagine how much car theft would occur if cars were not required to be registered).