There is a base principle to be considered: there is no 100% protection.
Having that in mind, we rely on 6 stages:
- Adapt your behaviour and this is the most important factor! Park in safer areas, play low, don't attract any theft, read about typical situations to evaluate and act educated at any unexpected situations.
- Make it as hard as reasonable possible to enter the VAN unauthorized.
- Make it as hard as reasonable possible to start or drive the VAN unauthorized.
- Recognize & collect as much as information about any unauthorized attempt.
- Execute contextual appropriate actions.
- Have an insurance, if any of above steps failed.
Studies (Bericht) showed, that thefts will stop attempts, if it's taking them too long or if there are any unexpected hazzles. So, it's about to extend the time and effort any theft needs to spent until he may stop his plan.
I hope, you'll understand, that I'll not share my concrete solutions for this sensitive topic. But let me share some ideas I had in mind.
Entering the VAN
I did not protect the factory windows for obvious reasons. The retrofitted windows (on the roof too!) can minimal be protected by stainless steel rails and additional latches. Maybe the size of the windows or the location makes it more difficult to enter the VAN easily. Some people install additional rails, but we've skipped that.
It makes sense to check out, if the VAN has some weak factory locks. For instance FIAT's locks can be broken just with a screwdriver within seconds. For the Sprinter it takes a bit longer, but having some protection-enforcements can overcome those weaknesses.
But we have some additional mechanical protections. The concept considers two scenarios: when we're within the VAN (night) and when we left the VAN.
Not every door has to support both scenarios. For practical reasons, it makes sense to have at least one "leave"-door-lock for the cockpit and one for the living area. The other doors can be locked, if you're still in the VAN. And you need to find a balanced approach between security and convinience. The best lock is useless, if it's not locked...
Please consider: Additional locks need to work in a way, that the rescue team can open the doors in case of an accident. This is especially important if you have seats in the back. In the front they usually break the windows anyhow.
Driving the VAN
Unfortunatly you can't rely so much on the factory immobilizers anymore. Amateurs will have their problems with it, but profis simply hack it if they have access to the ODB2 connectors.
So, here you can approach the topic: You can change the cable assignment of the ODB2 connector and built a "converter" between your now-not-standard-ODB2 and a standard assignment for any repairs. Or you simply move the connector to somewhere else and put a dummy-connector in the default place. What you gain is: time. The theft will take some moments to realize it. If he is persistent, next he will be after is the main control unit. You may want to protect it too.
The next unexpected hurdle you can introduce is: install a hidden mechanical, remote or contactless switch, wich cuts the power supply from a vital component to start or run the car for anyone who doesn't know it's existence.
If you don't trust electronics, you can still install components which prevent any usage of vital devices: break-boxes (konny lock), gear shift (bear lock), steering wheel (disklok), or wheel claw.
Just that you know it: there is no clear answer, whether visible signs of protections prevent break-ins or attract thefts, since obviously you might have to protect something valuable. Hope I never need to find out.
What you can't really prevent is, if they simply pull the car on a trailer.
Recognize and collect information
Since I've always planned with a smart electronic system, we installed a lot of sensors. Every hole in the van has it's own wired(!) sensors. On top we have vibration sensors & presence detection sensors. I would wonder if we would miss any unauthorized entry.
The system distingues whether it's ok, because it's triggered by ourself (because we're nearby) and when it's not ok.
In parallel some cameras (I know, I have a lot of them), will continiously record and transmit everything to the cloud. So in doubt, I can simply check it out remotely. Small clips are sent out in the moment of event, just in case somebody finds and destroys the cameras. I also know constantly where the CamperVAN is located or was last seen. Unfortunatly 3G jammers don't cost a fortune anymore, but you can recognize them a moment before. So just that event is an alert too.
We differentiate between whether we are in the VAN or not at the VAN at all.
If we're in the VAN I have some simple tools handy (bed side, living area, cockpit) to have an option for an appropriate first reaction. But it will depend on the real situation. Sometimes it's better to simply do nothing and let it happen quickly. Sometimes it's better to remember details for later identification. Sometimes it's good to have a silent alarm. But sometimes it's good to have a dull object handy. Top rule: our own life is the highest value to protect! Everything else can be replaced.
Over the years people simply learned, not to care about any typical alarm system sirenes. So, I've skipped that. When we're not at the VAN 1) I would rather like to know if there is something unexpected, 2) would collect information for a fast identification, 3) would make the life of the theft as hard as possible. Really loud noise, fog, etc. are appropriate tools as long as the car is not in move.
Once the car is in move, I want to have as long as possible an idea, where it is. Redundancy in trackers, power supplies and utilized protocols can help. And even for some vital components it's to dangerous to disable them remotely or after a time period of non-authorized start, for some maybe not ...
Again: There is no 100% protection.
The best protection tools are your eyes and your gut feeling! If anything doesn't feel good, keep moving. Your subconscious mind can process much more than you believe. Trust it!
I personally took some reasonable measurements. But I can't tell you if it's good enough or not, since we never had to rely on them.
And I'm thankfull that we didn't had to.
Note to the other side
Whoever just wanted to check on this page, if it's worth to test my installation: don't do it! It's my "mynineosix"! And to be honest, we're traveling light. So there is not much valuable stuff in it. And the VAN itself is so unique and complex built - you couldn't hide it and you couldn't use it. And just breaking it is not fair. You would break my soul too. Please don't do that.
In that case I have on all components hidden marks and took note of the serial numbers. I can access that information from all over the world. And I would wonder if anybody will buy something with scratched out S/N.