I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I believe it contains important information. We like brevity here at FiberglassRV.com, but this topic deserves to be fully explored. Camping safety is and should always be at the forefront of every expedition we make in our campers.
I want to preface my remarks by saying I’ve been active as a law enforcement officer since 1974, and am now a sitting Chief of Police. In the ensuing 30+ years, I’ve worked in a big city (1.5 million population) in Southern California for eleven years, a very rural Sheriff/Coroner’s department in Northern California for about seven years, and have been a police chief in two small midwest towns for about nine years now. I’ve worked in just about every social setting there is from urban ghettos to chasing growers in the marijuana fields in the far back country in the NoCal mountains. There isn’t much in law enforcement I haven’t seen in those years.
There is all manner of advice “out there” about how to take care of one’s self, some of it reasonable, some unreasonable. Some folks advocate all kinds of self-defense measures. The truth is that there’s no “one-size fits all” advice that will cover every contingency. In our society today, there is a general misunderstanding that someone will take care of us as individuals in our hour of need, and that personal safety is a right. The truth of the matter is that YOUR personal safety is still YOUR responsibility and law enforcement can’t, by law, do anything UNTIL you’ve been victimized. “To Protect and Serve” is frequently misinterpreted by the public as to “protect and serve ME” when in fact, it is to “protect and serve society at large” for the greater good. We investigate criminal complaints to apprehend people suspected of crimes to the greater good of society, not for retribution in a single crime. In the U.S., the State is the victim of all crimes, and you are merely a witness. That’s why all criminal complaints are entitled “State of Xxxx vs. John Doe” rather than “You, victim vs. John Doe”.
With that background understanding, the good news is that very
few people are victimized while camping or traveling. You’re much more likely to be a property crime victim by having your car broken into while you’re shopping at a grocery store or at an amusement park than you are to be victimized while camping or traveling. Your local grocery store parking lot is undoubtedly statistically a much more dangerous place than the average interstate rest stop.
Regarding property crimes, buying reliable locking technology AND USING IT are the best way to safeguard your property. If your property is more difficult to steal than the next guy’s, the crook will generally move on.
Regarding safety from animals in the wild, store your food properly and know the type of wildlife and the behaviors they exhibit in the habitat you plan to enter. Most animal/human confrontations are a result of either animal foraging trips gone bad because of poor food storage habits by the campers, or the camper surprising an animal; especially a critter with a cub, or getting between the mother and baby. RVs are not animal proof, and in some instances (such as a bear intent on getting to the bacon in your icebox) not even animal resistant. They take a little more effort to open than a cloth tent, but not much. Once again, knowledge is power and you are responsible for how you interact with nature in the wild. Nature is NOT going to bend it’s rules for you.
The bad news regarding "crimes against persons" is that if I’d
choose to victimize you, you’re going to be a victim no matter what you do. If I want you out of your trailer bad enough and you won’t come out, I’ll light
it on fire. You’ll come out. There isn’t an RV built that the door won’t come open with the application of a 12” WonderBar to the door, even with deadbolts. Trailers aren’t bullet-proof. If I shoot into one, the bullet will pass through whatever is inside, and likely come out the other side. In other words, merely being inside a trailer or vehicle doesn’t guarantee “safety”. What it will
do, however, is likely provide you some necessary time for tactical assessment and planning.
You alone are responsible for your safety and the safety of your family, not only while traveling, but all of the time. So, what do you do to be safe? It’s been mentioned here already. The single thing you can do to ensure your safety and the safety of your family is be aware of your surroundings and avoid situations where you’re placing yourself or find yourself being manipulated to be placed in jeopardy. The use of alcohol is involved in most crimes in and around campgrounds. Stay away from campgrounds where alcohol is allowed, and don't drink to excess while you're camping. You can't afford for YOUR judgment to be impaired in a crisis or an emergency.
If you find yourself in a position to be victimized, how you deal with it will depend on how prepared you are. Often, I have found that body language that tells the would-be offender that "I’m not cowed and will not be an easy victim" is sufficient for them to move on to an easier target. I am personally physically prepared through training and experience to assess and counter most situations that may arise. You can and should prepare yourselves similarly. Those preparations will vary according to your age and physical limitations; however, even elderly or infirm folks need not exhibit a "victim" mentality. If you don’t look and act like a victim, you greatly increase the odds of you not being one. Thinking clearly and quickly on your feet, forming an exit strategy (with whatever that entails including YOU mounting an offensive attack on your assailant if necessary), and deploying it are your best defenses against being victimized. Recognize that there are no guarantees in this world. While you are not guaranteed to come out of a situation like this unscathed, neither does your assailant have any guarantees. Take control of the situation. Turn it around to your advantage. Despite being physically and mentally prepared, in the course of my occupation over the years, I HAVE been victimized a number of times at the hand of another. Even though I have been a victim of violent crime, I have never yet "lost", and my assailants have always been successfully prosecuted.
Guns, ball bats, knives, and all manner of other weapons are useless in the hands of the untrained and unwilling. Likewise, if you are untrained and/or unwilling to use that training with a weapon and you bring it out, you have most likely just armed an otherwise unarmed assailant as they will take that weapon away from you and use it on you. WITH proper training and a proper mindset, I am an advocate of personal defense weapons. I do NOT advocate bringing a knife or a ball bat to a gunfight.
Preparation and forethought are the keys to avoiding being a victim in our society. If you don’t place yourself in situations that are likely to be dangerous (whether the threats are urban or in the back country and from other people, animals, or nature), you’ll likely never be a victim. If you find yourself unavoidably in such a situation, planning and forethought are your keys to successful closure of that situation.