HOLIDAY-makers are being urged to help put the brakes on caravan crooks by securing their vehicles.
The price of second-hand caravans is said to have recently rocketed due to the upcoming Easter break and more people looking to holiday in the UK.
And crimefighters say the price hike is making mobile homes more appealing to thieves, who can easily hitch-up an insecure caravan, change its plates, drive it to another part of the UK and sell it on within hours.
Now Hartlepool crime prevention officers have teamed up with Kinnersley’s Towbar & Trailer Centre, in Brenda Road, to offer free advice to caravan owners in the town in a bid to stop any more residents’ becoming victims.
PC Steve Cranston, of Hartlepool Police, said: “Over the last year we have had several caravans stolen, mainly from the outlying areas of town. People should not be relying on their site’s security to protect their caravans but actually using locks and safety devices.
“If a caravan is not secure, all a thief needs is a towbar to take it away. It is very important that devices are used to keep them safe.”
Darren Kinnersley, owner of Kinnersley’s, said most insurance companies ask that each wheel axle has a wheel lock on it and a hitch lock to stop a caravan being towed.
There are also several other mechanisms, such as locks to stop caravans being jacked-up, that can make them even more secure.
Mr Kinnersley added: “It is a good time to be in the caravan business now as it is the start of the season and more people are using them.
“But that means more criminals are turning to caravans because they are so easy to sell on and the prices have gone up.
“In the past, there has even been caravans stolen from service stations when people have stopped off during a journey. They need securing at all times.”
People looking to buy a caravan should also be aware that they need to make sure the vehicle and its owner are legitimate.
Buyers are advised to look for the Caravan Registration and Certification Scheme (CRIS) mark, which is on the chassis and should be engraved on each window. It can be used to check a national database and find out who is the true owner.
Mr Kinnersley also urges people to look for any signs of damage, especially around locks and windows.
Mr Kinnersley is offering a free five-minute security check for people who has bought a caravan. All they have to do is ring him and arrange an appointment.
He has also joined the crime prevention advisors to hold a competition for a free service check and a Smartwater kit, which marks belongings so they are easy to identify if stolen.
Anyone wanting to take part is asked to send their name, address and telephone number to Kinnersley’s Towbar & Trailer Centre, Brenda Road, Hartlepool TS25 2BJ by Friday, April 22.
Mr Kinnersley can be contacted on (01429) 860286 and the CRIS scheme can be contacted on (01722) 411430.