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Car vandalism and theft at trailheads #1738
Back To Discussion List Written: 2006.12.27 by: Andrew Wong

There is a discussion thread on about a recent spate of vandalism at the Diamond Head parking lot in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Several cars were broken into or vandalized. The owners of those vehicles were on overnight trips, and came back to unfortunate and expensive situations.

  This event is similar to a discussion a year or so ago on Bivouac, when there were reported problems at the Falls Lake (Zoa Peak) area. I'm adding this topic as a reminder that you should always be vigilant about where you park your car, and take steps to reduce the risk of trouble. While there isn't much you can do to prevent mindless vandalism--except parking in a highly visible spot--there are things you can do to make your car less of a target for theft:

  1. Remove from view ALL valuables, like CDs, sunglasses, gear, expensive looking clothing, and cash. Even pennies in an open tray can be tempting.

  2. Close all windows and sunroofs.

  3. Lock all doors.

  4. Use a anti-theft alarm system. Admittedly, not a huge deterrent in the middle of the woods, but anything counts.

  5. Use a steering wheel locking device.

  6. Use a locking gas cap.

  When it comes to car insurance, make sure you're covered for theft or vandalism. If you're a BC driver, put a photocopy of your vehicle registration and insurance papers in your vehicle. (I can't speak about other places, but In BC, you don't have to keep your original papers with your car. This helps to prevent insurance fraud through the theft of car information.)

  Where you park is another matter, and it's a problem for backcountry travellers because most trailheads are in remote places. Normally you can't rely on visibility or high traffic to deter the bad guys, and it can be argued either way whether hiding your car is a good idea or not (out of sight of the bad guys, or a chance for no witnesses?) And it's even tougher if you're gone for more than a daytrip. Can anyone offer any advice on where to park, or is this just an unavoidable risk?

  Finally, report all incidents to the police and onto backcountry websites. While the police can't do much after-the-fact, your report will help them track problems and hopefully lead them to concentrate on a bad area. (If they don't know about a trouble spot, they won't do anything about it.) Posting incidents to web communities will help alert others to potential problems.


#818 - 2007.01.04 Gerry Kollmuss - Retaliation perhaps?
I'm sure that most of the vandalism at Squamish is the result of the local youth as Steve Grant describes, however it wouldn't surprise me if some of the people in some cases were partly to blame. There are a number of people living along the road on the way up there and I'm sure they don't appreciate people driving past them at excessive speeds as they race up the road to get on with their day. This could be the reason why some cars are singled out for vandalism while others are left alone.

After being stuck on the road with about 30 other cars when it turned to ice last month we were pissed off with a number of the drivers that were impatient and wouldn't wait while other vehicles were getting pulled out of the ditch. The stupidity of some of these people that day was incredible, their behavior being exactly the same as an aggressive driver on the highway.

So it wouldn't surprise me if some of these people brought it upon themselves.

#814 - 2007.01.02 Steve Grant - Some thoughts on this
When something like this happens it's easy to lose track of how rare it is. During 22 years of leaving vehicles in the BC backcountry, I've never had one vandalized. However, I've always insured for that risk. In the prior 10 years of riding with others, we suffered a breakin/theft only once. That was with Robin's old Econoline van, parked in the bush in the Nemiah Valley near Mt. Tatlow. Come to think of it, we've done FAR more damage from bad road conditions.

I think the vandals are disaffected and/or drunken small-town youth who quickly become burdened by their conscience and outgrow the practice. Otherwise, as a fairly satsifying form of hooliganism with low risk of being caught, it would be a lot more common. I don't think they're generally thieves because anyone who can afford a vehicle to drive to remote places doesn't really need the little wealth they might glean from our cars.

I'd also go so far as to say they'd pick on older cars because newer or expensive cars trigger a mistaken but visceral fear of their victim having the power to retaliate. Which would YOU vandalize, the old Saab or the new Toureq?

Squamish is a breeding ground for dysfunctional young men, so it's not surprising such events would happen near the town. Added into the mix is the hatred with which the backwater culture views tree huggers and their ilk. Ilk such as hikers. Hopefully the anger and destruction will ease off as contemporary culture like the university replaces the hillbilly resource extraction mentality of such places.

#813 - 2007.01.02 Shelley Wales - not locking doors works
One of my friends in east van was constantly having to replace her car window due to break ins. She go fed up and started leaving the car unlocked. She has not been broken into since and it has been well over a year now.

As for your emergency gear, stash it in the bushes in a dry bag until you get back.

#812 - 2006.12.30 Greg Jones - Brutal has some comments from the Bellingham fellow who's car got torched.

I talked at great length with Ian Sutherland (Squamish mayor) last year regarding the smoke bluffs parking area problem, and he was pretty open to new ideas. I encourage everyone to use the contact info in one of the posts on the page linked above to be pro-active about this. Not enough squeaky wheels in the self propulsion crowd these days!

#811 - 2006.12.30 Justin Brown - Not locking doors may help.
Wulf is onto something with the thought of not locking up. A climbing partner of mine used to leave nothing in the vehicle with the doors unlocked and the glove box door open. I can remember returning from a trip in Golden Ears Park to find other cars had been broken into but his, although rifled through, remained unharmed. Locking things forces criminals to break things whereas not locking separates theives from vandals.

#810 - 2006.12.28 Wulf Pirang - It`s one of the costs
I`ve come to the conclusion that there is not much you can do -- my truck was broken into around noon on a Saturday last summer (second time in three years) on a busy forestry road . It takes those guys a few seconds to open a vehicle and after that they look like they belong there to any passers-by . It is not practical to remove all your emergency gear every time you park somewhere . I agree with Andrew -- don`t leave valuables like cameras etc.. That will cut your losses but you`ll still end up with a hole in your door or broken window . Maybe it`s better not to lock up -- you`ll save the repair cost and that is a major part of it .It should not be that way but it`s one more of the costs of doing what we like to do .