Key theft already comes at a high price for car dealers, but one city wants to add to that cost by making dealers legally responsible if they fail to take steps to secure their keys.
Chicago Aldermen Pat O’Connor and Harry Osterman have proposed an ordinance that would require the city’s car dealerships to secure all of their vehicles’ keys in a lockbox when the store is closed.
The goal of the ordinance is to prevent stolen cars from being used in other crimes.
Osterman told a local newspaper that police had contacted him about a growing problem of key theft at dealerships.
The City Council’s public safety committee is considering the ordinance. Neither alderman responded for requests for comment.
Key theft has become a major problem in Chicago, and across the nation. Thieves break in at night and, in some cases, run scams during the day to steal a dealership’s collection of keys.
Jamye Tabuchi’s store was recently the target of late-night thieves.
The co-owner of Fall Creek Motors in Branson, Mo., received a call at around 2 a.m. on July 2, informing her that the motion detector at the dealership had been activated.
When she arrived at the dealership, Tabuchi found Fall Motors had been broken into and all of the store’s car keys were stolen.
Security camera footage showed an unidentified individual cutting a hole in the back of the building, going through the garage and into the dealership.
The thief then went into the office, snatching all of the keys present.
“From what I can see as far as on the security footage, it’s only one person but I don’t know if there were more people outside or not,” Tabuchi said. “They seemed to have a pretty good understanding of where our security cameras were and so I only saw one person come across the camera in the back and one from the side of the building.”
Police are still looking for the thief. Fall Creek Motors is offering a $500 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
Sometimes thieves use distractions rather than brute force. This was the case at Golden Motors in Cutoff, La.
Police said that four individuals came into the store during regular business hours on July 7.
One of the four created a diversion, while another stole three keys from behind a desk and left the store.
They then fled from the store, leaving the other two members of the group behind, who were arrested at the scene.
The other two were arrested a few days later on a phone tip. Police believe they were going to use the keys to steal cars from the store.
The epidemic of key thefts is leaving dealerships looking for better security measures.
Tabuchi said that Fall Creek Motors would look into several options – from better security cameras to hiring security personnel.
Cheryl Ryan of Security Key Systems said that the most effective way to prevent key theft is creating a key control system.
A good key control system promotes accountability, just what the Chicago ordinance aims for.
“Unless you have a lock box but even that in itself, you don’t know who has the keys, who took the keys,” Ryan said. “This way if the keys are taken out of the system, you know who took the keys. So I would say that this is probably your best bet in regards to key control.”
Once keys are entered into the system, they can be tracked, letting the dealership know who had the keys. That person is then held responsible.
Ryan said the system guarantees someone cannot break into a dealership and steal the keys.