Wednesday, May 27, 2015

String of School Bus Thefts Reveals Lack of Key Security

School bus on road
Several accounts of stolen school buses have been cropping up in the news recently. While the circumstances around the thefts are unique and unsettling in their own way, they have two things in common: None of the thieves were authorized to be driving the buses, and all of them used keys to steal the vehicles.

So how were the perpetrators able to gain access to the keys in order to steal the buses? Let’s examine a few of the incidents.

Woman Tries to Swim to Canada After Stealing Bus

After stealing a bus from a Washington school district, a woman instigated a police chase with her erratic driving. The pursuit culminated with the woman crashing the bus through a harbor-side parking-lot barrier and into a tree. Abandoning the bus, she dove into Boundary Bay and began swimming away. Police caught her right before she reached Canadian waters.

After interviewing the woman, police determined that she was not an employee of the school district from which she took the bus. Somehow, though, she had obtained the key to the vehicle. Unfortunately, no one knows how, as the school district reported that its drivers and personnel were all accounted for.

Sex Offender Uses Stolen Bus to Attempt to Pick up Children

One April morning, a Utah father was surprised when a new school bus driver pulled up in front of his house. After talking to the man behind the wheel, the father sensed that something wasn’t right — and for good reason. The driver was, in fact, a convicted felon and was arrested shortly after attempting to pick up a different child. The convict had found the bus parked at the home of a substitute driver with some valuable items inside: the keys, directions to bus stops and a list of student names. The regular driver was supposed to have picked up the bus later.

Teens Crash Stolen Buses

In Tennessee, two separate groups of teens stole school buses from two Nashville schools in the same week. The first incident involved three teens stealing a bus with the keys left in it. A few days later at a separate school, two teens allegedly noticed the keys inside an out-of-service bus and took it for a ride. In both cases, the buses were damaged after striking utility poles.

Intoxicated Couple Takes Bus on Drunken Joyride

During the early hours of a weekday morning, an intoxicated man and woman entered a Maryland school district’s bus lot, where they found a key in the glove box of one of the buses. They took the vehicle on a dangerous joyride, which ended when the bus struck an electrical tower and crashed into the woods. After the theft, school officials reported that the driver assigned to the now-damaged bus still had her key. It turned out that the key in the glove box had been left there by a former driver.

Lessons Learned

What’s noteworthy about these stories is that except for the possible exception of the bus stolen from the Washington school district, the keys were left inside each vehicle, giving the thieves easy access to them. The rising number of school bus thefts is a prime example of why you should secure keys, implement a process to create a verifiable audit trail and educate employees on the ramifications of leaving keys unattended.

As a result of the thefts, most of the school districts experienced monetary damages (all but one of the stolen vehicles were crashed). In addition, the schools were forced to do damage control for their reputations and potentially breached the trust of the community, particularly in the case of the school that had a bus stolen by a sexual predator. And had there been any deaths or injuries involved in these incidents, the districts could have faced lawsuits as well.  

For more about how to protect your school's keys, read "Electronic Key Control's Role in School Security." 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Small Dealership Has Entire Inventory of Keys Stolen

Used cars
A small used car dealership owner in Grand Island, NE woke up to one of the worst Christmas gifts imaginable one morning late in December. During the night, thieves had accessed the dealership through an unlocked bathroom window and stolen every set of keys — 42 in total — before taking a 2001 Ford Taurus and a 2001 Dodge Ram pickup from the lot.

The thieves returned the next night and took a 1997 GMC pickup. Within a week, all three vehicles were recovered along with half of the stolen keys, but the dealership still faced the liability and inconvenience of not having the keys to the rest of its inventory. Without the keys, the dealership was limited on what vehicles it could sell from its lot.

An electronic key control system could have not only kept the dealership's vehicles safe but also given the owner the peace of mind that he would be able to continue business as usual in the event of an attempted robbery.

To keep keys out of the wrong hands, dealerships should consider using an electronic key control system that uses secure drawers that can only be accessed by approved users via a password, biometric fingerprint scanner or key fob.

Ideally, the system should also have a full range of reports as well as the option for authorized users to monitor the system anywhere, anytime using a standard internet connection. This capability allows users to see when keys were checked out and who took them even when they're not at the machine.

Learn more about keeping your dealership's assets secure from our post "Tighten Your Dealership's Key Control to Help Secure Your Vehicles."

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Burglary Ring Targets Property Offices for Master Keys

Home robberyMaster keys are golden tickets to thieves. Whether at hotels or apartment complexes, thieves have repeatedly targeted master keys to gain access to multiple rooms, apartments or condos.

A group of thieves had those lucrative prospects in mind when they broke into several apartment and condo offices around Tacoma, WA to steal the properties' master keys and use them to access residents' homes and mailboxes throughout the first three months of 2015.

The thieves also stole rent checks from the offices along with personal documents, tax returns, credit cards, checks, driver's licenses and bank statements from the homes and apartments. Police had identified more than 50 victims at the time of making three arrests connected with the burglaries in early April and said the group was responsible for hundreds of robberies.

Keep your master keys safe with an electronic key control system that protects your property's keys in a secure drawer or cabinet. This allows you to enforce authorization methods, such as providing a password or a fingerprint, to access keys. Every transaction by the user should be logged and recorded in reports so you know exactly who has checked out keys and when they took them.

As an extra layer of security, consider a system with a built-in or attachable camera that can take pictures or record videos of anybody attempting to access the system. This will enforce accountability on authorized users while simultaneously discouraging unauthorized access.

An electronic key management system can also help you with your property's day-to-day functions, such as tracking packages, prioritizing and tracking work orders and entering prospect and resident data into your records.

An electronic key control system can do more than keep thieves at bay. To learn more, read our post "The Everyday Advantages of Apartment Key Control."