Cheshire Constabulary is using a new tool to aid the force’s fight against caravan and motorhome thieves.
The VIN CHIP anti-theft identification system enables officers to scan a touring caravan or motorhome from up to 15 metres away to see if it has been reported as stolen and find out who the registered owner is.
They can be scanned at speeds of up to 60mph.
Cheshire’s Roads and Crime Unit officers are now using the system, and owners of touring caravans and motorhomes across the county are being advised to ensure that they have a VIN CHIP fitted and are registered with the Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS).
Inspector Anton Sullivan, of the Roads and Crime Unit, said: “Due to supply and demand, the number of caravan and motorhome theft incidents tend to rise in the summer months.
“This year the demand for them is even greater than normal, with travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic making staycations, mobile homes and caravan holidays more popular than ever.
“So we could not have asked for a better time to add the VIN CHIP scanning system to our armoury for when we are out on patrol and monitoring our roads.
“Used by many other police forces in the UK, ports officers and also in mainland Europe and Scandinavia, it has substantially increased the number of stolen caravans and motorhomes that have been recovered and returned to their rightful owner.”
Since 2008 a radio frequency chip containing a unique vehicle identification number (VIN) number has been embedded into all UK-approved touring caravans when they have been made.
Owners of older caravans can have one fitted at a relatively small cost, and owners of caravans made between 2008 and 2016 can pay to have their chip upgraded so that it works as well as the newer ones. This may have an insurance benefit with some companies.
Motorhome owners can also pay to have a VIN CHIP fitted, and some manufacturers are now embedding them into all their new motorhomes.
Insp Sullivan added: “Working like a speed gun, a VIN CHIP scanner enables an officer to quickly see if a caravan or motorhome on the move has been reported as stolen, and who the registered owner is.
“Once a caravan or motorhome has been identified as stolen we will endeavour to bring the thief, or thieves, to justice, and have it returned to its owner.
“Our officers are now using the system to this end across Cheshire.
“However, the system will not work for touring caravan or motorhome theft victims unless they have a VIN CHIP fitted.
“Touring caravan and motorhome owners are advised to have a VIN Chip fitted and to have the vehicle registered with CRiS to help their mobile home be located in the event of it being stolen.”
Cheshire Constabulary’s other security advice for caravan and motorhome owners is:
- Ensure that they are kept secure at all times, with all doors, windows and roof windows closed and locked
- Remember to fit hitch locks, wheel clamps and immobilisers to your caravan as required as part of your insurance, even when it is in storage or you are on holiday
- Hitch locks lock a car and a touring caravan together when on-site or at temporary stops en route – the law allows you to tow with the lock in place providing that the hitch still rotates correctly
- Wheel locks have the dual purpose of being a visual deterrent and an anti-theft device – the best ones will still work even if your touring caravan’s tyres have been let down by thieves
- Look for Sold Secure Gold or Diamond standard wheel locks – often locks that are easy to fit are also easy to remove
- Never store any valuables in your caravan or motorhome – those you take away on holiday with you should be marked with your postcode, as should any accessories you use, such as water carriers, tables, satellite dishes etc
- Always store caravans and motorhomes in a safe and secure location
- Leaving your caravan or motorhome in an area covered by CCTV and good quality lighting will deter thieves, as will leaving the hitch head parked inwards and the caravan blocked in and difficult to remove – consider security posts to keep your van even more secure
- If you are thinking of keeping a caravan in a storage site, check if your insurer has a preferred site
- Before choosing a storage site for your caravan, check online to see what crimes have been reported there and how easy it is to pick up your caravan and if the site operator checks your details
- When holidaying in a touring caravan or motorhome, try to use registered sites which have a good level of security, such as CCTV cameras
- Installing a GPS vehicle tracker could help to locate your caravan or motorhome in the event of it being stolen – if you have such a system make sure that your subscription is paid
- If you have an alarm, set it – these are often linked to the GPS tracking monitoring company and can give early notice of theft
- Keep an eye out for anyone acting suspiciously where your caravan or motorhome is stored, and ask your neighbours to do the same – all suspicions concerning thieves targeting caravans or motorhomes should be reported to the police.
David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “I am delighted to hear that Cheshire Constabulary has a new tool to help officers catch caravan and motorhome thieves and recover stolen vehicles.
“Opportunist thieves could not only potentially ruin someone’s staycation but could also put touring caravan and motorhome owners at risk of losing thousands of pounds if their vehicle is stolen.
“I urge all caravan and motorhome owners across the county to follow the advice from Cheshire Constabulary and check the security of their vehicles.”
Anyone with any information or footage regarding the theft of caravans or motorhomes is asked to call Constabulary on 101, give the details via our website or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.