If you’re among the thousands of UK caravan fanatics planning on taking a trip into Europe this autumn, there’s a pretty stark warning from the authorities to bear in mind. A growing number of caravan owners are being targeted by criminals who have turned to the use of dangerous gases to incapacitate the occupants while their possessions are stolen.
Those attacked reported having stopped for the most part at motorway rest stops or other areas not specifically designated for caravan and motorhome use, only to wake up several hours later feeling unwell and realising they had been robbed. Even at motorway service stations where plenty of other people have been around at the time, the same criminal acts seem to be on the rise.
As this is a time of the year when thousands flock toward the Mediterranean for the last weeks of sunshine before the winter, authorities are urging proactive vigilance from all such travellers. The criminal gangs are known to target specific locations and also work on an opportunist basis, which in turn means that if the caravan’s occupants choose not to use an approved site that’s known to be safe, they could be putting themselves and their possessions at risk.
“Thousands of Club members travel to France every year and we have never had to deal with a gas related criminal issue. France is a motorhome and camping-friendly country that has a network of stopover locations specifically designed for camping units,” said Travel Services Director for The Camping and Caravanning Club, Richard Grimsdale.
“In most cases they’re run by local town councils offering a range of facilities, and are much different to those that line the Autoroute. As a Club, we’d advise that the safest option is to stay at official campsites en route to or returning from camping holidays abroad,”
“The Club offers a network of selected campsites across Europe that can be pre-booked to make travelling safe and easy,”
“Like in any country, we’d advise people to use their common sense and be observant, take sensible security precautions and not leave valuables on display.”
In addition to following safety precautions in terms of where to set up and settle down for rest periods, there are also devices that can be purchased specifically to protect against such attacks. For less than £100, any caravan owner can invest in an alarm specifically designed to detect the kinds of gases being used by the criminal gangs to incapacitate their targets. The first sign of any gas detected triggers a powerful alarm, which will awaken the van’s occupants in time to get outside and reduce exposure to the gas.
Despite all such reports and official warnings however, it’s interesting to note that the Royal College of Anesthetists doesn’t actually believe there’s anything quite so sinister going on. The way in which the apparent gassings left little to no evidence behind and triggered no detrimental side effects has led some experts to believe that it would be simply impossible for any mainstream criminal gang to obtain such sophisticated narcotic gases and administer them with such precision. In fact, they even suggested that the kinds of anesthetics agents used commonly today which could in theory be obtained by such gangs are not even nearly strong enough to have the reported effects, were they to be fed into a caravan in the manner supposedly adopted by the criminal gangs.
Still, the caravanning community as a whole is being urged to exercise proactivity rather than to take safety for granted and hope that the problem has indeed been exaggerated. With thousands of pounds worth of losses being endured by caravan travellers hitting the continent every week, it’s clearly a much better idea to be perhaps overly safe rather than ending up sorry.
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