Out of curiousity, can you name the town of infamy where this happened?
I am usually super-laid-back about my gear. Never, ever had any problems with gear thefts. Lots of bad incidents at trailheads (although not as spectacular as the one where someone creamed all of the cars at the Foss River Trailhead near Skykomish with a piece of heavy equipment and left them in a big pile -- that was probably a legacy of the great spotted owl war).
There was an insane wave of trailhead thefts and general visitor rip-offs around Leavenworth in the late '80s. Every now and then something similar kicks up. I remember well being woke up in the middle of the night along the Icicle River hearing voices debating the best way to break into my VW Bug. The headlights from their 70's-era Chevy Noname sedan were squarely pointed at my car, and lit them up rather nicely. Me and two friends were sleeping on a rock slab on the opposite side of the road and had a good view of the coming excitement. Their facial expressions were priceless when their vehicle backed up, turned around, and sped away. They decided it was best to chase after their vehicle than attempt to deal with unseen malicious climbers.
Their vehicle was left about a mile down the road, safely parked at a wide turnoff. The keys were left in the ignition, the engine was left running, and all of the doors were locked. We managed to sneak past them (they were in a tearing hurry), got back to our spot, flung our stuff in the Bug, and moved camp a few miles upriver. What goes around comes aroung, you know.
Great climbing the next day. Saw the tow truck hauling their Chevy back to Leavenworth about midmorning.