It was almost 2am CET, and I’d been working on some photos but had not long turned the computer off and was playing with the dog with his favourite toy when I noticed a flashing outside. It was almost like a police light. I leaned up to see through the windscreen as the curtain that separates the cab area was open and I realised quickly it was a torch. I laid still on the sofa watching as it came closer and shone right through the windscreen, shining on the dashboard, then the floor between the seats. It moved away then came back again this time shining through the passenger door window across the dashboard again, then moved round to the front again and shone up into the rear living area where I was. I still hadn’t moved and was watching and there were clearly 2 people out there and the one with the light had moved away for a second but was back again and this time the light held steady shining right into the van.
I’ve got a very powerful Lenser torch so I got it from the wall hook, switched it on and standing between the two front seats shone it directly into the face of the man with the torch. He immediately waved to me with one hand and started shining his torch around in circles on the floor at his feet, as if looking for something.
There were four of them: 1 other beside the man with the torch, one leaning on a tree a few feet away and another standing about 15 feet away, who walked quickly out of sight when I put the torch on.
I stood there watching them as they slowly moved away from my van still pretending they were looking on the floor for something, then the second man turned to me and waved as if to say ‘it’s okay’. I stayed where I was and the 3 that were left all turned and faced my van squarely. One of them gesticulated and it was obvious they wanted me to turn the torch off so I widened the beam to shine on all 3 of them and stayed there unmoving. I was starting to get a little nervous at that point however after we stood and looked at each other for about 20 seconds -which felt like sooooo much longer- the man with the torch began to move away between the trees followed by the others, turning his torch off as they went.
That was it. No more than 3 minutes in total, but I am sure of what I saw and I think had I been out somewhere, as the open curtains suggested to them I was, I’d have come back to an empty van.
What can you do to protect yourself against this? Not much I reckon. You can have all the locks in the world and I know one camper who uses a tie-down strap to tie his two front doors together when he leaves, going out the side door and locking the security bolt he has on that. However those tie down straps can be cut in seconds once the window’s broken so they’re useless. All the security bolts in the world on the camper door do nothing as it’s so easy to gain entry through the front van doors. An enthusiastic amateur thief could break into 99% of campers in about 30 seconds.
I suppose if I’d closed the curtains and left a light on they may have thought someone was in. But then would they simply knock to find out, with some already prepared story as to why they were knocking? You could fit a good alarm, but unless there are people nearby who hear it and are prepared to investigate there is little the alarm will do. I’m sure a competent thief can manage to get some of your stuff in the 15 minutes it may take police to arrive if someone called them.
I know the van is unlikely to get stolen as it’s got a key operated immobiliser and a tracker fitted so I think as campers if we’ve taken precautions then we need to maybe accept that at some point it is possible that we may be burgled and mitigate that event, possibly with a burn proof safe bolted to the chassis to hold money, documents, spare debit card and spare phone? However once we’ve done that I think the best thing is get into a mindset where we accept the possibility and therefore aren’t devastated if the worst should ever occur, and have planned at least to have something left from it to help ourselves recover. I wonder what others think?