Smash and Grab! What’s a hiker to do?

Questions? Email Me
3 March 2014
Comments: 10

Criminals don’t seem to mind this announcement-what about you?

There’s nothing like spending a day on the trail deep in the wilderness far from the ills of modern society–to return to your vehicle at the trailhead to see that the ills of modern society have paid you a visit. Car break-ins,  smash-and-grabs, car clouting-whatever you want to call it is far too common at many of our trailheads-and already trailheads along the Mountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls are seeing a spike in this activity. More than likely it’s the usual perps- meth heads and other junkies looking for a quick and easy hit to sustain their habits.

So how do we stop this from happening to us at our favorite trails? Other than attacking the big picture here which is addressing substance abuse in our society- which is responsible for the majority of our property crimes-something that we as a nation haven’t seemed to be able to successfully address yet-what do we hikers do? And I don’t want to hear about your Dirty Harry and Charles Bronson fantasies -I am talking about real solutions here not knee-jerk reactions (but trust me we all have those, too). I would think that if I was a business owner in Granite Falls (or some of the other areas like the Columbia River Gorge and BC Lower Mainland that is hit hard with this crime) I would be really concerned.

How many more of these break-ins have to occur before hikers start heading somewhere else-or is this already  happening? How many of you out there are avoiding trailheads in high crime areas? I know I take this into consideration when I am planning a hike. There are trails for instance that I would absolutely not leave my car overnight at for a backpacking trip.  Sure I have insurance and sure it can happen anywhere-but when the odds are pretty good that it is may  happen at a specific area-I hedge my bet somewhere else. So what about you? How do you address the issue of car break-ins at trailheads? What should be done? Do you think it is even a problem? Or is it just another societal ill that we need to resign ourselves to accept-and just go about on our merrily way down the trail?

10 comments on “Smash and Grab! What’s a hiker to do?

  1. Terry Priest on said:

    I can honestly say I am out along Mountain Loop Highway twice a week, hiking and snowshoeing. Fortunately, I have never had a break in, but according to trail reports, I have been close. Real close.
    Food for thought: I have been doing this probably 60 times a year for several years in the Mountain Loop area – I hike other areas as well, but this is my preferred area- and have seen how much law enforcement?
    I hate to answer this because it seems highly unlikely, but maybe 2 times out of all those times out there. Forest Rangers? Maybe half a dozen times.
    This area is pretty much lawless, and the criminals know this and treat it that way. And I have heard that when you report a crime, it is just passed off to your insurer, and “there is nothing they can do”.
    It really is an unfortunate situation that is progressing at a rapid rate. I take all the standard precautions with my vehicle, but realize it is just a matter of time before I fall victim, and that thought is hanging over me like a thick, dark PNW cloud.

    • Administrator on said:

      The area has so much recreational potential that it is a shame that it is becoming so lawless. I would love to see patrols and some bait cars set up. It’s usually the same culprits responsible for most of the crime.

  2. Kyle ( on said:

    This is unfortunate. It has not happened to me, but it is a concern since I often camp in my truck and usually have plenty of expensive gear in there because of that. I am honestly not even sure what could be done to prevent this. There are so many trailheads that it would be difficult to keep them patrolled at regular intervals. Especially considering there are plenty of trailheads that are over a mile in on Forest Service roads.

    • Administrator on said:

      Agree-I often travel for days at a time with a packed rig-I pretty much avoid high crime trailheads when I can-get creative on where to park and often have to extend my hike with a run or bike ride-but it is worth it not to be victim of crime-especially when I am on the road for days and a busted window and stolen gear can affect my research/work time.

  3. Don Shank on said:

    For years I owned an ugly old traffic cone orange Datsun B210 that I took to the trailhead. I left the doors unlocked, the glove box open and nothing of value in the car. Having nothing of resale value (including the car itself) was a great deterrent. Nobody ever bothered it.

  4. Denis on said:

    As you may remember, Craig, I leave my car unlocked and take all valuables, or lock them in a secure lockbox. This has been my policy since the 1980s when my window was smashed at an Olympics trailhead. Tuffy, Smittybuilt, Bestop and others make the lockboxes. It doesn’t have to be Fort Knox, it just has to be harder and take longer than the next car. Successful so far.

    • Administrator on said:

      I like the lockbox idea Denis-but I still have a problem leaving my rig unlocked-I try to park next to the most expensive vehicles in the parking lot though! 😉

  5. Jennifer on said:

    It does make me really nervous, especially since I usually have my kids with me, and a broken window (or worse) could make things really unpleasant for them. It’s been many years since I’ve had a problem, but I hate pulling up to a trailhead and parking in a pile of broken glass from all the windows that have been smashed. I don’t keep anything valuable in the car, but, I know that won’t necessarily stop anyone. I have an older Camry with kid stuff filling the back seats, so perhaps people think there’s nothing there to take? I don’t know – it does make me really nervous, and i think I would feel better if I had a plan in mind for how to deal with it after the fact if something happens…

    • Administrator on said:

      Agreed Jennifer-it is more than just a nuisance having your vehicle broken into-there could be some serious safety issues involved especially if your vehicle has been compromised and the weather has become adverse-this issue of trailhead break-ins is getting bad in the NW and it needs to be addressed-especially by the communities near the worst areas as it can affect their commerce if folks begin shunning these destinations.

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