Monday, June 17, 2013

Apartment Complex's Lack of Key Security Leads to Brutal Attack of Resident

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, apartments are 85 percent more likely to be broken into than single-family homes. This means that apartment complexes should take necessary precautions to prevent these break-ins, including having a system set up to protect keys.

Most multifamily property owners and managers are aware that they must have security measures in place to protect their tenants from harm and to protect themselves from liability. Unfortunately, not all complexes practice secure key control methods.

But as a recent article by The News Tribune reports, there are serious consequences for failing to implement adequate key security measures.

The article highlights an incident in December 2009, in which Dana Widrig, an apartment dweller from Richland, WA was brutally attacked, raped and practically left for dead in her own home. Her attacker, Cody Kloepper, did not enter the unit by breaking a window or kicking in the door but by simply  unlocking her door with a spare key from the apartment complex's office.

Image courtesy of king5.com.
The landlord had kept the keys in a lockbox (shown in the image to the right), but the key to the lockbox was merely placed in a mug on top of the lockbox. This made all the spare keys accessible to all employees, including Kloepper, who was the apartment's maintenance man.

Kloepper was convicted, and Widrig filed and settled a lawsuit against her apartment complex for negligence. Sadly, said Widrig's attorney, Kloepper could have been prevented from stealing the key if the complex had required him to identify himself with an electronic trail.

Widrig has made it clear that she won’t be satisfied until there is real change in the way that keys are secured. There is currently no state law in Washington requiring landlords to secure their spare keys, but Widrig's story captured the attention of a local state representative, Gael Tarleton, who has plans to introduce a bill requiring landlords to safeguard spare and master keys.

If we can learn one thing from Dana Widrig’s horrific experience, it's that having a protected system to guard your keys is vital. The costs of failing to do so could be detrimental to your customers and your business. 

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