June 15, 2011

We're the government. We want to look out for you. So cough up your keys.

Courtesy David Thompson. If you’ve already seen this, apologies. But it is absolutely astounding — and one of the reasons I tend to view public safety officials, be they police or fire fighters, with a healthy dose of suspicion. Whereas being suspicious of local government and its petty tyrants is pretty much standard fare.

Posted by Jeff G. @ 11:30am
61 comments | Trackback

Comments (61)

  1. The appropriate response is a certain Cee Lo Green song.

  2. Sure, I’ll put my keys in a strong box. No problem. Now, is the city going to pay my insurance premium for theft? I’m quite sure the insurance company will be happy know the keys to my business are readily available to anyone with a sledgehammer.

  3. So give ‘em the wrong key. How they gonna know unless they try it?

  4. Huh. We got those in Chicago, as part of the fire code, fire dept has to have access. Call them ‘knox boxes’.

    I never really thought about it before, in terms of the gov regulating you have to give them your keys, but I guess so.

    Though if you stuck the wrong key in there, they wouldn’t know about it until your building caught on fire… but then that would probably be bad.

  5. I’m quite sure the insurance company will be happy know the keys to my business are readily available to anyone with a sledgehammer.

    Ehhhh…. prolly gonna take more than that.

    Even if you knock the box off the brick wall it won’t bust open so easy. Easier, in fact, to knock a hole in the brick wall and walk in.

  6. Iowa, huh? Would that be the left-leaning Iowa? What is it about otherwise conservative communities and local cultures that go racing for totalitarian aims?

    I’ve seen that mealy-mouthed, well-I-think-that’s-a-good-idea emotionalism in a lot of such enclaves. It’s the religious left, maybe; the what-would-Jesus-do socialists who can’t and won’t think their way out of a paper sack.

  7. Wouldn’t a little thermos of liquid nitrogen solve that problem in a snap, tap?

  8. ok but I’ll be needing a key to the union whore firefighter station … just in case they’re not on the ball when I need them

  9. That is awe inspringly wrong. Praise You-Tube, the leveling wind against petty tyrannies the world over.

  10. Some mini-Obamas there in Cedar Falls.

  11. I kind of assumed that this was already reality in some respects. Certainly the post office doesn’t hit buzzers on apartments until someone lets them in to deliver the mail. Likewise power companies that need to read meters.

  12. The proper answer is “Molon Labe”. Even here in Indiana.

  13. In my former building, the postman had a key to a box mounted outside the door, which he used to let himself in to distribute the mail. I thought nothing of it, but I wasn’t thrilled with the people who would let anyone in to tromp around and annoy me.

  14. I’d never thought about Knox boxes as a civil liberties issue before. They’re everywhere here in Colorado, even in my little fire district (Safeway & King Soopers shopping centers, some large businesses, etc.).

  15. I think they should just outlaw locks.

    I mean, like, what kind of a message does all those locks send to your neighbor, you know?

  16. The move to ever expand the reach — from commercial, to triplex, to duplex, etc. — that disturbs me.

    Just kick the door in if you have to.

  17. I am … what … I mean — why …?

  18. scotch, my apartment complex has a little separate run of mailboxes that the post lady gets to without every coming near a building. I can see how that’s not the case in cities with a building instead of a complex, but it honestly never occurred to me that the government could demand access to residences just ’cause. If they tried, I would be angry.

  19. As our district has no real apartment complexes, I’d never even considered Knox boxes for residential use.

    And, as I said above, I’d never considered them from a civil liberties POV. I don’t know what to think, yet.

    Like you, Jeff, I’m senstive to the Camel’s Nose argument, especially in local politics.

    As far as the Cedar Falls councilmen, I’d be looking for recall provisions ASAP. I know politicians believe they’re smarter than their constituents, but to hear them say it (We’ll do what’s in your best interest regardless of how many voices we hear)? Wow!

  20. Wouldn’t a little thermos of liquid nitrogen solve that problem in a snap, tap?

    Well, hell yeah. But if you’ve running around with a thermos of liquid nitrogen type sophisticated, I doubt you’re gonna have much trouble getting in anywhere. The point is the knox-box is not the weakest point.

    Bit of a security tangent: Even having the lock on the door in the first place lends a false sense of security. You shouldn’t think you need a key to get in cuz you don’t. The locks on the knoxbox (usually circular) are much harder to pick then the damn door lock. Anyone who knows what they’re doing isn’t stopped by a lock. What, you think a robber is gonna be all like “Oh yeah, I’m gonna knock over this house and steal their teevee…WHA WHA WHA!?! They locked the back door?! FOILED!”

    Not having the key in the box won’t even stop the fire department. They run into that, actually, where the box is on the wall as per code but nobody bothered to put the key in, or changed the locks out and never thought about swapping the key in the box. They just axe the door down in that case.

    People talk about how ‘you didn’t use to have to lock your door…’. You still don’t. Even in bad neighborhoods you’re statistically unlikely to get robbed often, and when you are – the lock won’t stop them anyway. It’s mostly a perception thing. People use to FEEL safe with unlocked doors and now they don’t FEEL safe.

    Tangents about how most every-day consumer-level security is 99% emotional in nature aside…

    Personally I would probably put the box on the wall and the key in it and not make a fuss, cuz it’s not a big deal and it’s nice that the fire dept can get in. In most cases now that I think about it, it’s used in multi-tenant dwellings like strip malls where there are liability issues. Often no tenant will have the key to the sprinkler room where the alarm system is and they need access. Highrises full of condos also have access by the fire dept (to both the building and the alarm and evac system) mandated, but in those cases it’s usually much more complex than just the box.

    BUT, no I don’t support it being mandatory. You (as an owner, not a tenant) don’t want to provide a key you shouldn’t have to.

    Although, of course, it is. Predictably though, it’s easily evaded and unenforceable in the large.

  21. Don’t a lot of jurisdictions have building codes that, should your home have a back or a side door, in effect require you to have a breakable window in it so your local firefighters can get to your dead bolt? I seem to remember reading something along those lines several years ago. Convenient for burglars.

  22. I’d never thought about Knox boxes as a civil liberties issue before. They’re everywhere here

    Ditto. I’ve long known about them, but never thought to consider them from such an angle.

  23. I think for apartment complexes, Knox master keys make sense for entry into the building (i.e., access to common area, standpipes, etc.), but I think I’d have a problem with requiring master keys fit individual units.

  24. Hey, everybody, Entropy leaves his door unlocked. Feel free to go in and take his stuff.

    Locks will not stop the determined thief, but they will stop the casual ones.

  25. Keys!?

    In my county if the fire department needs to get through a locked door they use this newfangled thing, I can’t remember what it’s called.

    Oh yeah: an axe.

    Maybe Cedar Falls FD doesn’t have them yet. They’re quite high-tech.

  26. And, Ernst, I can’t imagine that being a building code. Our forcible entry training has us look for the least destructive way to enter (e.g., breaking a window to turn a lock). But to have that as code? Seems worse than moronic, given the amount of really fun breaking tools firefighters have at their disposal.

  27. I used to install window and door bars on houses and apartments in DC. Seems to me there was a local law that forbid keyed-only deadbolt locks on door bars on account of the possibility the panicked resident mightn’t find their key when needing to escape — say from the blazing basement apartment of a nominal single-family dwelling — anyhow, no one paid the law any mind, preferring the peace of mind they found in the bars with keyed deadbolts to thumb-turned instead. None of them, however, ever thought over how simple it is to pop the face of the individual bricks our steel-pin installation fixtures were drilled into with as lightweight a tool as a 20 oz. hammer to just jerk a window bar out of the way. Easy-peasey. So, yeah, it’s a truth that entering isn’t problematic for the determined thief.

  28. Entropy: “Though if you stuck the wrong key in there, they wouldn’t know about it until your building caught on fire… but then that would probably be bad.”

    I somehow doubt that the fire department requires a key to my apartment in order to fight a building fire. Unless the fire’s in my apartment, in which case, hey, that’s why they carry axes…

  29. Well, you don’t know where I live. So I’ll tell you – yes. Yes I do. I often don’t lock it. Cuz I’m lazy and forgetful and cocky.

    I wouldn’t go advertising that fact in public, cuz that will invite thieves.

    But you know what? I’ve never been robbed. Course, I live in a decent neighborhood. Not like my unlocked door has deterred any thieves. But it hasn’t attracted them either. They don’t know.

    These days anyone who goes looking to get in your house is going to assume your doors will be locked. Everyone’s are.

    They’ll have a way around that.

    If they actually try the door before smashing a window in or something, and find it unlocked?

    You just saved yourself $50 you’d spend potentially repairing the lock, or a window, on top of the cost of whatever he steals.
    ;)

  30. I somehow doubt that the fire department requires a key to my apartment in order to fight a building fire. Unless the fire’s in my apartment, in which case, hey, that’s why they carry axes…

    I have no sound so I can’t watch the video at work. They are not required (round here at least) on individual dwellings. It’s more like one would be required for the front door of your apt building, but not the individual units.

  31. Entropy and sdferr are right that locks won’t stop a sufficiently determined thief. However, a great deal of criminals aren’t sufficiently determined (or smart). So what you’re getting with a lock isn’t an absolute bar to crime, but a delay. The trick is to be a hard enough target that even a determined thief does the mental calculus that they ought to move on. It’s about risk vs reward for the thief, you as the homeowner are controlling – not eliminating – risk to yourself.

    As to the privacy thing, seems rather an overreach. The council member’s comment at the end was arrogant as hell, indicating he didn’t care what anyone else thought…he simply was smarter than the lot of them.

  32. Those government officials are out of control. I have great respect for those citizens of Cedar Falls for not going absolutely bat shit over this proposal. Instead they are very restrained, articulate, and spot on in their criticism. Bravo for standing up to these tyrants.

  33. My keys are in the same strong box (aka a safe) that my guns are in. Come and get them.

  34. Here’s the ironic part, the cops and fire department will not use the damn keys in an emergency. Have you ever seen either in an emergency? It is knock down the door and ask questions later.

  35. Happy, I want a key to the fire station because I hear the chili there is just kick ass good. I want to try some.

  36. Joe: I agree, the citizens of Cedar Falls presented themselves very well. I’ve been to town hall meetings before, and often the ones who show up to speak seem more articulate and informed on the issues than the council often does.

  37. Joe,

    Your FD must not be very good if they break the door in first. One of the first rules of opening doors in the fire service (for fire or extrication situations) is “Try it before you pry it.” Try it includes using the Knox box key.

    And, if you want to go into a fire station, just knock (during business hours)…

  38. AFS, I was being snarky of course. Yes you are right, if you show up at a fire house (especially with a kid) and ask for a tour they will almost certainly accomodate you (I have never done it without advance notice).

    But I have seen both the police and FD respond to emergency and seen the battering rams and axes out without checking for keys. Then again, these were places without knox boxes.

    The idea that I have to leave my key available for the police and FD is offensive. If you want to voluntarily do it fine. But you should not be compelled to do so. And if the police or FD have to bust in because you do not have a knox box, I am fine with bearing the cost of that. Fair is fair.

  39. Am I crazy to think that, given the high value of one of these master keys that grants access to any commercial building in a city, there is a huge incentive for a criminal to get his hands on one?

    Screw ‘em. If they make a law like that, I’ll take a key that’s worn down some, file it down further so it no longer works, buff it down with a wire wheel and let it sit in a bath of Coca-Cola for a few hours to hide the deliberate wear, and stick that in their box. If they ever have to use the key, they won’t be able to prove that it didn’t work when I put it in the box.

    Oh, and I’ll install a switch on the box that triggers an alarm the moment anyone opens it. (Having a security camera aimed at the box would be a nice touch, too.) I’ll make it a normally-closed switch that breaks the circuit if the box is opened, so that if someone can get to the wires and cut them, it also triggers the alarm (which will have a battery allowing it to stay up for days in the event of a power failure).

    I’ll also create a sticker with a distinctive design and serial number on it to act as a seal, and put that over the edge of the door on the box, so that any city employee thinking about opening it up will know that his tampering will be detected.

    I’m thinking I ought to design these and sell them to people who live in cities with ordinances like this.

  40. The part that really steamed we was the Q & A … “What give you the right to …” “We have a right as government to …”

    GAH!

  41. Here is my reason to have locks and lock them, even the flimsy way a yard storage shed is locked. A thief has to break something to steal anything. This does deter some as one common method is to simply try doors on cars and homes till an open one is found.

    Also that broken lock tells you that a theft occurred even if what was taken wasn’t easily or readily noticeable. When you call the police to report a theft and then your insurance company it is a lot easier to show you were robbed if you have the evidence of a broken lock or window.

  42. Seth, that’s true of any type of security: all it does is raise the bar for what’s required in terms of tools and skill.

    Oh, and Entropy, anyone who wants to kick my doors or windows will be in for a surprise. You can get windows designed to stop 2x4s driven by tornadoes; likewise, steel-cored doors in steel doorframes anchored to the foundation that open out. All that really is, of course, is to buy time for me and or my wife to get to the guns.

  43. You can get windows designed to stop 2x4s driven by tornadoes; likewise, steel-cored doors in steel doorframes anchored to the foundation that open out.

    Oh yes. Mega cool. And effective. Now you’re getting SERIOUS though. That stuff costs bucks. Especially if you want to hide it and have it remain aesthetically pleasing and not look like prison.

    But if you’ve got the money hell yeah, I’d love that.

    That kind of setup – bullet proof glass windows and steel doors, would even keep LEO out long enough for you to see them coming, identify them, muzzle and cage your dogs, position your cameras, put on your bullet proof riot gear and lay down on the floor in the event of a wrong-address no-knock.

  44. Plus it would be hillarious to interupt their banging and hammering 3 minutes in and request they allow you to open the door for them.

    Maybe call the media while you’re at it.

  45. Here is my reason to have locks and lock them, even the flimsy way a yard storage shed is locked. A thief has to break something to steal anything. This does deter some as one common method is to simply try doors on cars and homes till an open one is found.

    It is also not unheard of that someone with idle hands and the knowledge that your shit ain’t locked up might help themselves to it, just because it’s easy.

  46. That kind of setup – bullet proof glass windows and steel doors, would even keep LEO out long enough for you to see them coming, identify them, muzzle and cage your dogs, position your cameras, put on your bullet proof riot gear and lay down on the floor in the event of a wrong-address no-knock.

    Better yet, you could have a word or three with them via the video link from your panic room/bunker to the monitor in the front hallway. You could even taunt them as you release the cyanide. Mwwwaaaaahahahahahahaaa!

  47. What does the fire department need keys for? They’s got axes….

  48. Hmm.. Guess I should read previous comments first. What can I say? … Great minds think alike? Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  49. It is my understanding that the reason the Postal Service can access multiple mail boxes is that your (or what you think is yours) mail box is actually the property of the USPS. I think this fact might obviate any Constitutional considerations – but who knows?

  50. True, Lesley. Even the box in front of a house has a disclaimer on it stating ‘property of USPS’ or some such. Which is why bashing mail boxes or cherry bombing them (common high school pranks) are a felony and carry substantial penalties including fines and jail time.

    I would call the mandatory purchase of a box for delivery an unseen tax, btw. Don’t know if Home Depot or the government gets the bucks, though. Still, try asking for your mail to be delivered to a ‘non approved’ box and see what happens.

  51. Maybe call the media while you’re at it.

    That’s what the streaming video to youtube is for.

    You could even taunt them as you release the cyanide.

    Too indiscriminate. Properly aimed Claymores deliver ground round in a more limited area.

  52. sdferr posted on 6/15 @ 11:59 am
    Wouldn’t a little thermos of liquid nitrogen solve that problem in a snap, tap?

    A can of butane lighter fluid will do it. I use it to freeze broken HSS taps and they shatter like glass.

    “You are bound by law…….!”
    Awwwwwww.Kiss my ass.

  53. I would call the mandatory purchase of a box for delivery an unseen tax, btw. Don’t know if Home Depot or the government gets the bucks, though.

    USPS doesn’t make or sell the boxes so it doesn’t get the money, but that raises a depressing point:

    Lawyers defending the Obamacare individual mandate might argue the “approved mailbox” requirement sets a precedent for requiring people to engage in economic activity — though if I get rid of my box I can still just go down to the post office to pick it up. Waiting in line to reach the counter doesn’t seem likely to qualify as economic activity…

  54. SDN, how do the hinges work on that door opening out? I’m assuming there’s a system in place to keep the baddies from knocking the hinge pins out and removing the door.

  55. When I was out of town for a couple weeks some asshole backed his trailer over my mailbox. Mrs Cookies wasn’t putting a new one up and I sure wasn’t paying for it, so until the dickhead came by with the $50 I asked for we had no mailbox. The Mail guy brought our mail to the front door.

    Wen I lived in an apartment, the maildude had a key to the vestibule and the mailbox, and when I worked in housing our units all had mail “stations” in a common area. The firehouse had a “skeleton key” that will open access to common areas in public buildings and multi-tenant housing, but not, as far as I know, individual apartments.

    As a matter of fact, when I first started working there a volunteer fireman was caught using that key to gain access to a couple of buildings we owned that were under renovation to steal tools and set fires in the basements to cover it up. He went to jail and I got what I thought was a fat paycheck to develop inventory control systems. I was wrong. So wrong.

  56. LMC, the first house I have much memory of living in, was a townhouse-style apartment in a low-income housing project back when such places weren’t war zones — the mail was delivered through a slot in the front door.

    I rather doubt they still do that there.

  57. Praise You-Tube, the leveling wind against petty tyrannies the world over.

    Because the fucking Fourth Branch of Government isn’t worth shit.

  58. I have to say, our units were really nice. So were most of the people who lived in them, but they just didn’t give a crap. If they broke it, it was our job to fix it, and they’d freak out if we wanted them to pay for it. This was back during the high tide of the crack epidemic, and crackheads would steal anything they could get five bucks for. The common areas were stripped bare of anything that wasn’t bolted down, someone pried all of the aluminum numbers off of the doors and sold them for scrap. The scrap guy ended up my best friend. He’d get manhole covers from our parking lot, the swings from the playground, the chain basketball nets, and right before I quit, this statue.

    The mail for the older units would all go to the office and the residents would have to pick it up because the mailboxes had all been vandalized. The newer units had mailboxes in the vestibule “man trap”. And they were newer, so they hadn’t been wrecked when I left.

    The group I worked for decided that the way to get the people to care about their homes was to let the tenants buy them. The rest is history.

    As far as I know, no one but the Super, property management, and the tenant had a key to the apartments. (Which made it tough to find out if that poor old lady’s “grandson” was just visiting every day or really living there.

  59. I realize that it’s dangerous to underestimate the overreach of government, but this issue is not a big deal to me. As a paramedic, there have been dozens of times that we were unable to gain quick access to a home where either someone was down and unable to unlock the door, or to verify whether a medical alarm (“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up”) was valid or false. I get the slippery-slope and all that, but tying up an ambulance crew waiting for a fire/rescue unit to force entry and finding nothing (then having to summon keyholders, board-up service, “why did you have to kick in my door?”, etc.) is a big hassle, and delays availability of that crew for someone else who may actually need help.

    It’s (Knox or whatever) not foolproof, but I’ve not heard of much abuse of the system (much less than, say, leaving your key under the mat). And if you’re the one lying there on the floor grabbing your chest or your nutsack, unable to drag your rapidly dying ass over to unlock the door, the thought you’re having right now might not seem as logical and objective.

  60. Liberty has costs associated with it. Even fewer people would die if we all had monitors attached to us 24/7 that checked our vitals and automatically alerted emergency teams if something went wrong. If we all stayed in one place and never drove anywhere no one would die in car accidents.

    This list goes on and on. I prefer as much Liberty as I can take back from an overwhelming government, and I will live with the consequences.

  61. WOW!

    Can’t believe that I didn’t take my generic anger out on this one! This could be a boner up HERE!

    WAWATF!!

    Yup…

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