Trailers An Easy Target For Thieves: Here are tips to keep yours from being stolen

Thieves make off with a trailer. (Image from surveillance video)

It’s a crime of convenience, but one that's often well-planned.

It’s stealing trailers for the trailer itself or what’s in it or on it.

While the numbers are hard to track because trailer thefts may be put in different categories with different law enforcement agencies, thefts appear to be on the rise.

The owner of Trailer City, a retail sales and service center in Portland, says he hears the evidence of that on the phone too often.

"About two or three times a week, someone will call looking for a new trailer," says Chuck Chimento. "It's good for me, not so good for them."

The thefts can happen fast.

It just takes minutes, even seconds, for the real pros to back up a truck, jump out, hook up a trailer, and take off.

Chimento says if you want to get a stolen trailer back, try this trick.

"Paint it a crazy color so that it stands out. Ninety-five percent of the trailers sold are black. So we say buy an orange one, a red one, or a yellow one."

Police agree that the challenge with retrieving stolen trailers is that they're not as easy to spot as a stolen car or truck.

"Trained observers go out and look for many different factors," says Portland Police Bureau Sgt. Chris Burley. "But if it's a flatbed trailer, if it doesn't have any branding on it, you don't know if it's the right type of trailer, if the plates are switched, or maybe there's no plate at all, makes it hard to tell."

Stolen trailers might be easier to track down in Washington than in Oregon, where a trailer that weighs less than 1,800 pounds doesn’t need a license plate.

"But Washington is much more strict. They require everything -- anything that's towed requires a license. If you have a barbecue on wheels you have to license that," says Chimento.

Alberto Palacios, the owner of Cultivate Lawn Care, says he's been lucky. He's had people try to open his trailer, but never try to take the whole thing.

He and his crew aren’t going to let either of those things happen, by standing guard when they do yardwork.

"I'll have one person in the backyard, one in the front," says Palacios, "just to keep an eye on the trailer and the tools.”

Every legal trailer comes with a vehicle identification number, but experts say it’s still a good idea to put a special mark of your own on any trailer. A small strip of paint in a place you can't see, a beaded welding strip underneath the trailer, even a sticker can help you identify the trailer to police.

Locks work well too. You can buy a hitch lock that blocks anyone from hooking it to a tow bar.

The best bet is a wheel boot, according to Chimento.

"We've never had anybody come back here and say their trailer was stolen with one of those on it," he says.

Police say one trend they’re seeing is what they call “trans-loading,” where thieves will steal a full trailer, haul it to where they have a legally owned empty trailer, move the contents into that one, and leave the stolen trailer behind.

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