“Oh my god,” were the only words I could say as we approached my vehicle. My friend responded, “Oh, sh*t.”
We had only gone climbing for a couple of hours, but in that short time, a large rock had been thrown into the passenger window of my truck, breaking the glass into a thousand tiny shards. It broke my heart and threw my stomach in loops. Shiny blue-tinted glass covered the asphalt, floor and seat. A hole about the size of a thumb had been punched into the driver’s seat.
I was speechless—my home was robbed. However, I also wasn’t surprised.
My entire life is stored into that truck and despite wanting to believe the best in people, items are oftentimes dangerously visible to strangers. Friends have told me horror stories of their own vehicle-homes being broken into, but it hadn’t yet happened to me until this day.
In all honesty, my own truck was a ticking time bomb. My only precaution was to simply lock the doors (which is apparently far from enough).
So, what could I have done to prevent this break-in? Here are a few different things I’ve learned from my time spent living the roadlife:
Look for Obvious Warning Signs
There were two obvious red flags I missed that day. If I checked the climbing forum Mountain Project, I would have read comments that this parking area was known for break-ins. Had I paid attention to the ground, I would have noticed the unusual amount of glass littered along the side of the highway. It would have been smart to climb elsewhere that day, or not drive my truck.
If It’s Not In Plain Sight, It Doesn’t Exist
Object permanence is a concept both babies and thieves are unable to grasp. If they cannot see the object, it does not exist. Therefore if you cover gear, hide valuables, or tape a black tarp inside the windows, the same theory ultimately applies. Bottom line: If it’s not in plain sight, they likely won’t take it. Be smarter than potential thieves.
Store Valuables Discreetly, and Not All in the Same Place
Store valuables in discrete areas—the glove compartment and center console are easy targets. My cash, cards, and passport are split up into hidden spots in my truck so it’d take a significant amount of time shuffling to find them.
Store Things in Awkwardly Shaped Containers
Sometimes it’s unavoidable to have gear in view, especially if space is limited. The solution? Awkwardly shaped containers are difficult to steal. A plastic Costco box was directly adjacent to the bag that was stolen—but the bag was quicker and easier to take, so it became the target. Making the whole “smash and grab” process as time-consuming as possible will likely deter thieves from hard-to-grab objects.
Always Bring Your Keys!
I am absolutely guilty of hiding my keys outside my car while climbing, whitewater-ing or shuttling vehicles. However, don’t be dumb. Don’t do this. Lock the doors and always always always bring the key with you.
I’m quite lucky that only a bag full of ski gear was stolen. While the loss totaled to well-over $1,000 (labeling it as grand theft auto) the heist could have been much worse. My computer and camera, in clear sight, were not touched.
The officer in charge of my case, Deputy French, was able to track down the female suspect. In a blessing in disguise, she found my credit card in my bag and used it at locations with video surveillance. While the police couldn’t connect her beyond a reasonable doubt to the break-in, they charged her with identity theft, possession of stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime.
The last time I asked for an update, the woman’s male-counterpart was brought in for questioning. I haven’t further pursued what happened after that, but I can assume my stolen gear will never get back to me. This brings me to the most important lesson I learned: Despite all the precautions you can take, break-ins can still happen. It will cause frustration, tears and sad phone calls to insurance agencies, but the only way forward is to move on.
Besides, who even needs winter gear. I can just ski naked, right?
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