Tailgate Theft: Who Would’ve Thunk?

Tailgate Theft: Who Would’ve Thunk?

Back in 1993 I bought a new Ford F250 PU truck. At the time I was working the graveyard shift in downtown Portland Oregon and I parked my truck on the street right next to City Hall. In the morning when my shift ended I walked a few blocks and just got into my truck and started driving home. After several blocks I happened to glance in my rear view mirror and could not see my tailgate. I thought that my tailgate must be in the down position so I stopped when I could and walked to the back of truck. To my shock I discovered that my tailgate was gone! Someone stole my tailgate! Needless to say, I was shocked and angry. Who the heck steals tailgates?

I ended up buying a new tailgate and found out just how expensive aftermarket tailgates cost. I think it cost me somewhere around $800.00 for a new tailgate and then I had to pay more to paint it so it matched my truck. Today a similar replacement tailgate would cost much more. To prevent this from ever happening again I did some drilling and devised a way to “pin” the tailgate to my canopy with a padlock so that it would be extremely hard for anyone to ever steal my tailgate again. That was that and I did not give tailgate theft anymore thought . . . until recently.

As a private investigator and security consultant here in Oregon I get asked to investigate all kinds of thefts. Theft investigation and consulting on security measures to prevent thefts are a big part of what I do. When I got a call from the sales manager of a car lot who wanted me to investigate thefts of tailgates from his lot, my ears perked up. Are thieves still stealing tailgates? Yes they are. And maybe more so now than ever! Thieves all across the country have been having a real tailgate party in recent years.

Tailgate Thefts are Big Business for Crooks

No one knows for sure how many truck tailgates are stolen each year because many owners do not report the theft to police or insurance companies. When mine was stolen, for example, I reported it to the police but did not make an insurance claim because doing so would have likely increased my premiums. I just “sucked-it-up” and paid for a replacement tailgate out of pocket. But the best statistics available are from The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). They keep track of insurance claims and report that claims related to pickup tailgate thefts have increased in recent years.

As accurate as their statistics are, the NICB recognized that there may be far more tailgates stolen than they will ever know about. In a report on tailgate thefts the NICB said “It is important to note that the numbers in this report reflect insurance claims and are not representative of the actual theft activity. Moreover, due to the methodology used to identify tailgate thefts it is possible that some thefts may have been missed. Also, for many reasons tailgate theft victims choose not to submit an insurance claim. Many victims may not be insured against theft while some feel that filing a claim may impact their future premium. Others may have a deductible that is higher than the replacement cost.”

Tailgate Thefts cost Victims Big Money!

With most replacement tailgates costing more than $2,000.00 (a lot more if your truck has a custom paint job) tailgate theft is an expensive crime and it is complicated by the fact that most tailgates are designed for easy removal. Some newer trucks have factory installed tailgates locks that keep the tailgate from simply being lifted off the truck, but many do not. Literally, an unsophisticated crook can remove a tailgate from your truck and be off with it in less than a minute!

This surveillance video from Denton County Texas shows two thieves stealing a tailgate off a truck in about 15 seconds:


Another surveillance video shows a crook nonchalantly stealing a tailgate in full day light: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGNqSwiGS48

Where Do Most Thefts Occur?

Tailgate thefts occur all across the United States – no area is immune. Even smaller cities like Shawnee Kansas and Milwaukie Oregon, have seen an up spike in tailgate thefts. But according to the NICB the top states (in ranked order) are:

  1. Texas
  2. California
  3. Arizona
  4. Florida
  5. Nevada

The top tailgate theft cities in these states are Houston TX, followed by San Antonio TX, Dallas TX, Phoenix AZ, and Fresno CA.

In Denver Colorado and some other cities, tailgate thefts have increased so much that police published tips on how to make it harder for a thief to steal your tailgate.

Prevention Measures are Effective

There is a big after market in used tailgates. As long as it is easy for thieves to steal tailgates the thefts will continue. Fortunately, preventative measures are simple, effective, and relatively in expensive but they are useless unless they are always actually used.

They include:

  • LOCK IT. If your truck comes with an integrated tailgate lock – USE IT. If your truck did not come with a tailgate lock, buy one. There are several different varieties available online or at auto product stores.
  • PARK IT. If you can park your truck inside a garage do so – EVERY TIME. If that is not possible, when practicable, consider parking with the back of the truck as close to a wall as possible. His will make it harder for a thief to maneuver around the back of the truck and remove the tailgate.
  • ETCH IT. Engrave the truck’s vehicle identification number (VIN) into the tailgate; this will aid in its recovery and may prevent its theft in the first place.

If you don’t own a truck you might think that all this information does not apply to you. You are right, except thefts of tailgates drives up the cost of insurance for everyone. Even if you will never own a truck everyone should keep their eyes open. If you see someone taking a tailgate off of a truck, take a second look. Maybe . . . you are witnessing a crime in progress.

George W. Babnick, is a 34 year law enforcement veteran with an extensive background in physical security, criminal and administrative investigations, training, school policing, supervision and management, and criminal forensics. He retired as a Captain in the Portland Oregon Police Bureau where he managed the Training, School Police, and Forensic Evidence Divisions. He holds criminal justice degrees from Portland Community College and Portland State University and a law degree from Northwestern California University School of Law, Sacramento California. Mr. Babnick is a longtime member of the Western Society of Criminology and is the author of articles on security and law enforcement, investigations, supervision and management, and risk management related to these subjects. As a physical security expert, George Babnick provides private physical security consultations across the United States and consults with clients outside the United States. He specializes in assessing security problems for small and medium businesses as well as select individuals. He offers independent, honest advice and expertise, with the goal of providing all clients with practical and cost-effective security solutions to enhance security and effectively manage business and personal security risks. Mr. Babnick is also a licensed Private Investigator and conducts investigations for attorneys, businesses, and individuals throughout the State of Oregon. To learn more about security consultation and investigative services offered, please visit http://babnickandassociates.com Disclaimer: Nothing in any article on this blog should be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice should seek the counsel of an attorney licensed in their state.